Val Skinner Foundation

2008 Heroes

2008 Heroes

Jessica Queller

Queller, writer-producer on the hit series, Gossip Girl, recently authored “Pretty Is What Changes,” a book chronicling her decision to have a prophylactic double mastectomy after testing positive for a gene mutation known as the breast cancer gene, or BRCA.

Women with the mutation have an increased risk of developing breast cancer, as well as a strong chance of getting ovarian cancer, the disease that killed her mother.

In the book, Queller, a 34-year-old who has written for television shows, including Gilmore Girls, Felicity and One Tree Hill, shares her desire to have a family of her own and her beliefs about body image and sexuality, while also exploring the physical, emotional and philosophical consequences of her decision.

Queller lives in New York and Los Angeles.

Judy Rankin

A year after beating her bout with breast cancer in 2006, Rankin, a World Golf Hall of Fame member, helped start Pink Links, a class designed to promote the healing process for breast cancer survivors through the game of golf.

Her experience with the disease emboldened her to reach out to breast cancer survivors needing help in recovery.

As an LPGA pro, Rankin was a fierce competitor, amassing, 26 wins, three Vare Trophies, two money titles and two Player of the Year awards.

When her playing days ended, Rankin embarked on a successful career as a golf broadcaster, which included being the first woman to work full-time on broadcasts of men's events.

Now 63, Rankin has become one of the most respected women in the golf community. She lives in Midland, Texas, with her husband, Yippy Rankin.

Laura and Kelly Noonan

Laura Noonan, of Bay Village, Ohio, is a 23-year survivor of breast and ovarian cancer. Her strong will and determination has helped her prevail against three reoccurrences. In 1984 and 1985, the mother of two defeated bilateral breast cancer, and then overcame ovarian cancer in ’91 and again in ’02.

Throughout these bouts, the 58-year-old has found solace on the golf course.

“It has always been about survival and in the early years so much of that had to do with staying alive to raise the girls since they were 2- and 3-years-old with the initial diagnosis,” said husband Ralph Noonan.

Laura’s most heart-wrenching battle with breast cancer, however, was not her own, but her then 25-year-old daughter’s.

Kelly Noonan, a former division-one collegiate golfer, was diagnosed and treated for the disease in 2005.

Genetic testing, which revealed that Laura had passed on the breast cancer gene, likely saved Kelly’s life, said Ralph, who nominated the two for the Hero award through Golf for Women magazine.

Now, 27, Kelly and husband Michael Murphy are expecting their first child in October.

Jenny Sheppard

Jenny Sheppard was diagnosed with breast cancer at 37. This diagnosis came after a proactive mammogram (she had before the recommended age 40) through which her cancer went undetected. Knowing her family history and after finding a lump in her breast through a self-exam, she pushed through to have an ultrasound which revealed a tumor in one breast. Because of the diagnosis and her family history, she opted for a bilateral mastectomy as a precautionary measure, in addition to the chemo and radiation cancer treatment.

Realizing through her own experience that there were few existing support networks in Georgia, South Carolina and her general local area of and for younger women with breast cancer, Sheppard and two other Savannah women began a breast cancer support and awareness group targeting women in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Today, she counsels young women who are newly-diagnosed breast cancer patients. She is interested in helping the LIFE mission through work with the Young Survival Coalition.

Shepherd currently resides in Savannah with her husband, Sean, and her daughters, Riley and Anya.

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