When Lorrie McCarty was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, hers was a very, very small tumor that hadn’t shown up in a mammogram three months earlier. It might have prompted a conservative response except that a relatively new test identified it as a highly aggressive type of cancer that warranted chemotherapy.

Now, after five years cancer free, McCarty has a special appreciation for cancer research that leads to advances in treatments.

“In my mind, it all goes to, 'Had that test not existed—which was created with research with everyone working together—they would not have given me chemotherapy and I probably would have had my cancer back',” McCarty says.

McCarty now supports the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research through Heads Up Bands, a company she and a neighbor started that has donated about $40,000 to the fund from sales of a special Spielman-designed headband. The Dublin, Ohio, resident had met Stefanie Spielman casually. Their sons were the same age. “She was a mom, a wife. We had a lot in common,” McCarty says.

It was something McCarty’s husband said at a dark time during her treatment that prompted her to start her own business.

“He said, ‘You’re thinking you’re going to die. You need to think of something that makes you live,’” she says. “The amount of support and love and kindness we received as a family was priceless, and I thought, ‘I want to do something and give something back.’” She started by selling pink-ribboned “Keys to a Cure” key fobs at FrontRunner and donating the $500 she raised to the Spielman Fund.

She and her business partner then moved to headbands, an idea from McCarty’s recovery from chemo. “My hair came back super, super curly—which it wasn’t before, so I made my own hairbands and people liked them.”

Maddie Spielman helped pick the design for the special Spielman band—a pink, black and white geometric pattern—and the $15 bands were an instant hit with high school sports teams in clever efforts like “Lacrosse Out Cancer” and, for field hockey, “Stick It to Cancer.”

Heads Up Bands and the Spielman Fund now partner with Proforma Graphic Services on an entire line of Spielman merchandise that high schools can purchase at cost and use for pink-out games and other fundraising.

“I’m really, really proud of what we’ve been able to contribute with a headband,” McCarty says. “It’s so simple.”

And so important.

“Cancer never really goes away—you’re always looking over your shoulder,” McCarty says. “But I’m doing something positive with it if I can somehow, in my little world, make a contribution back so that someone else doesn’t have to sit down with their kids and say, ‘Mom’s got cancer but she’s going to be OK’ when they don’t really know that.

“I’m 100 percent behind the Spielman Fund and what they’re doing. We’re all in this together.”

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