Diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer in 2011, Ronda Bumgardner Carter is currently receiving treatment to slow the growth of tumors in her ribs, lungs and spine. Yet despite the pain that accompanies her disease and treatment, Carter has established A Closer Look, a non-profit organization that distributes personal care gift bags to people with late-stage breast cancer.

“I haven’t found a treatment that will shrink my tumors to where they are not causing me pain,” Carter says. “Managingthe pain is as hard as managing the cancer, but I have a very good palliative care team that helps.”

A career journalist, Carter has shared her cancer experience via social media but she wanted to do more. It was out of the desire to help others that A Closer Look was born.

bumgardner11“When I was trying to think of a way to give back all the kindnesses that had been shown to me during my breast cancer journey, I knew I wanted to bring joy to women undergoing treatment,” Carter says. “My heart was drawn to women with late-stage breast cancer because I kept seeing such a physical difference between ‘us’ (late stage patients) and ‘them’ (early stage patients).

“The treatment devastates your body,” continues Carter. “And the decisions women with Stage IV face are different. We have to think about end-of-life care,who will raise our children after we are gone. I wanted to do something to make these women feel better. I wanted them to look in the mirror and see themselves as beautiful and powerful.”

A Closer Look blossomed last summer after Carter met Amber Smith, a Mary Kay consultant who lost her mother to breast cancer. Carter began her own Mary Kay business, which allows her to get supplies at a discount and fund A Closer Look.

Other contributers help purchase supplies and volunteers help with deliveries. Donor names are attached to each gift bag, and they are informed when their gift is presented.

b“I think this makes it more meaningful,” Carter says. “Donors are helping people who live in their community.”

“Women’s needs change during cancer treatment,” Carter explains. “If they are undergoing chemo and their eyelashes fall out, they don’t need mascara, but they might want brighter makeup shades to make up for the loss of hair. I use my own experiences—for instance, I began using blush and bronzer, which I hadn’t used since college after my weight loss from cancer made me look pale and thin.”

Carter added that she is already looking beyond the gift bags to the next step of her mission.

“I want to create more places for people who are living longer with breast cancer to be together, to share and to mentor women with early stage breast cancer,” Carter says. “It’s hard to be a cheerful survivor. I do my part to encourage other women because I ’m still here and so are they. That’s worth celebrating.” {PP}