Faces Of Cancer: Vivian Rae

By Alan Gionet

DENVER (CBS4)– “It’s nice to share my story,” said Vivian Rae.

But we talked about what a great day it will be when her conversations – her life – do not revolve around her cancer.

“I am a person. Although I’ve been hit with a disease like this, it doesn’t define who I am.”

No, it does not.

Vivian is a strong, unique person, not just a person dealing with cancer.

vivian rae 1 Young Mom With Cancer Fights For Her Children

(credit: Vivian Rae)

We are introducing people to you this month as I start a “No Shave November” campaign to raise money and awareness about cancer. Yeah, the beard is another day in development and I’m entertained by the emails with creative descriptions of it’s tangled beginnings. I’m the same guy on the inside, just hoping to be a little better to the world outside.

Vivian was a full-time supervisor at Target at 22 years old. She already had one little girl and a new baby boy. Nine months after the birth of her son the discovery hit hard in January of 2013.

“I had found a lump and monitored it for two or three months.”

Her mother had always talked to her about self-exams. Vivian was not going to let it go. It took doctors some time to figure it out, but after a diagnosis of Stage II breast cancer, she opted not just for removal of a lump, but a double mastectomy. It was a wise choice. They found more. But one of the hardest parts, was being a young mother.

vivian rae 2 Young Mom With Cancer Fights For Her Children

(credit: Vivian Rae)

“I wasn’t allowed to lift anything more than five or 10 pounds. That meant I couldn’t even pick him up and hold him.”

She remembers just lying in bed next to her son heartbroken she could not lift and hold him.

The treatments were hard but started to work. She would beat it back and get word there was no sign of it anymore. She spent two years without a cancer diagnosis. Two years to be with her children without it hanging over her. Then it came storming back in 2015. There was a lump on her chest wall. That wasn’t all.

“It was in my bones throughout my entire body.”

This time they’re treating it with Taxol after another treatment stopped it from growing, but wasn’t killing it. She’s lost her hair and tries wigs. Sometimes she’ll share a picture without one.

“Just because I don’t have hair, it doesn’t have anything to do with defining me.”

She’s unable to work right now and trying to play as big a role in the lives of her daughter and son as possible. Her little girl is eight and taking violin lessons. Her son is five. He’s practicing basketball.

vivian rae 3 Young Mom With Cancer Fights For Her Children

(credit: Vivian Rae)

She’s on Medicaid but is, “sitting on a pile of bills.”

It’s another source of stress for someone who doesn’t need it.

Vivian is not a cancer victim. She’s a cancer survivor. She’s an honest, decent person and a mother who loves her children like no one else. She was robbed of her health and hit with fear. But it’s not who she is. I’m thrilled to have met her, it made my life better.

Vivian’s medical bills are an awful deal but she has a GoFundMe page to help.

Here’s a link to my No Shave November page as we raise money and awareness about cancer. I hate cancer. It killed my brother and my mother and father. Let’s get rid of it once and for all.

Alan Gionet is anchor of CBS4 This Morning and reports on a wide variety of issues and “Good Question” stories. He started at CBS4 in 1994. Follow Alan on Twitter @AlanGTV or on Facebook.


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