From a celebrity to my very own aunt: A reflection on how two women persevered through breast cancer in the media and in ordinary life during pink October

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Megan Schneider
ONLINE REPORTER

“Stay fab!”

That phrase, written by Italian American entertainment reporter and television personality Giuliana Rancic, stood out to me—it was the first celebrity autograph I received while at Mercy High School.

An autograph from Giuliana Rancic, anchor of E! News. Photo by Megan Schneider/the Gateway

I remember walking the halls of high school as a junior with my face lit up. Rancic had always been an inspiration for me to look up to in the field of journalism, specifically for how she reported on celebrities.

Her dedication and career achievements as a mother, wife, entrepreneur, journalist and co-anchor of E! News is simply admirable to a woman like me. I’ve taken many notes on the best interview questions to ask, learning from the years Rancic’s been spotted on the red carpet for star studded events like the Grammy’s and Emmy’s.

A picture of a book written by Giuliana and Bill Rancic
Photo by Megan Schneider/the Gateway

Rancic was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2011 at the age of 36.

“‘Everything will be OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.’Ever since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, this quote has been my mantra,” said Rancic in a vulnerable Instagram post.

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"Everything will be OK in the end. If it's not OK, it's not the end." Ever since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, this quote has been my mantra. These words have been my anthem, my inspiration, my comfort and my prayer. They gave me hope that the emotional and physical struggles that had suddenly consumed my life were NOT my life forever. That this was temporary, and I would pass through this storm and feel the sun on the other side. That I would one day feel like "me’ again and be OK. This week, these words are especially meaningful as I celebrate an important milestone – the one I have prayed for every night for one thousand, eight hundred and twenty-seven nights: Five years cancer-free. Now that I’ve reached this critical milestone, the odds of the breast cancer coming back are not gone but exponentially lower. Breast cancer is more of my history, less of my present, but that doesn't mean I am leaving this battlefield. Through my journey, I have met those who, it breaks my heart to say, did not reach this milestone. This past year alone, more than 40,000 people died of breast cancer, while another 300,000 received the devastating diagnosis and began their own journeys through the storm. And I pray for them all. To those we have lost, I will keep your spirit alive by continuing your fight. And for those who are fighting now, I will pray for you and hope that the same words that helped pull me through the darkest hours will give you some comfort, too. That you will have faith that everything will be OK in the end. For me, this week marks a new beginning. I breathe a sigh of relief as I come to the end of this five-year marathon and cross the most significant finish line of my life so far. I can now declare, with immense gratitude and God's love, that I can feel the sun shining on my face. And I can also say that I'm finally…OK.

A post shared by Giuliana Rancic (@giulianarancic) on

In honor of breast cancer awareness month, let’s look at survivors as shining lights of optimism. Despite their darkest days while receiving painful treatment, every woman has a unique story to share about their triumph over the beast.

Some are not as lucky and deserve to be remembered for their fight against breast cancer in honor of pink October.

Rancic’s organization, Fab U Wish, is a nonprofit that raises money for breast cancer research. The charitable institution grants a wish to a woman who is battling breast cancer. Many of those recipients get to feel beautiful on a special day or visit with a celebrity that they love.

Aside from her dedication to philanthropy, I can say that my decision to declare a major in journalism and media communication was in part because of her and the reality show Giuliana and Bill. Their show depicted her luxe life in Los Angeles and Chicago along with her husband, Bill Rancic.

Photo by Megan Schneider/the Gateway

Throughout its seven seasons on the Style Network from 2009-2014, I got to watch what a day in the life is like for an entertainment news reporter. The excitement and thrill of her career seemed like a fun one to pursue, so I did.

After I enrolled at the University of Nebraska at Omaha in August 2014, the school opened my eyes to the endless possibilities in the industry. The College of Communication, Fine Arts and Media has impacted my life in ways that I’m beyond grateful and thankful for each day.

From my first media writing classes to my last four classes in my undergraduate career, I cannot wait to accept my bachelor’s degree Dec. 20, 2019. I’m eager to see the diploma that I’ve been expecting for the last five years.

My aunt Kathleen Ashford-Wernz is another survivor of breast cancer. Her story impacts me in a way that most wouldn’t see with an ordinary eye.

Kathleen Ashford-Wernz and Megan Schneider. Photo by Megan Schneider/the Gateway

“22 years blessed, strong and still standing…what an incredible journey it has been. It has given me the strength and courage to treasure every day of my life,” Kathy said.

Sharing stories with the public about extraordinary people will always be my No. 1 priority as the next guardian of truth.

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