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Pink Sistas Founder
Helps Cancer Survivors Heal

By Ty Walker

Pink Sistas Founder
Helps Cancer Survivors Heal

Everytime Deb Hart shares her story, it brings her a little more healing, the cancer survivor said. In 2006, she suffered more than her share of emotional and physical pain and grief.

In August of that year, her son was found dead on a boat off the coast of Anchorage, Alaska. Seven months later Hart was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. After 26 rounds of chemotherapy and having a double mastectomy, she beat breast cancer and became a survivor.

The loss of her son hit Hart the hardest. Kasey was a young tugboat captain. He was only 22 when his heart stopped suddenly.

“I floundered for a long time due to not just cancer but the grief over my son,” said Hart, who recently turned 65. “The loss of my son is the worst thing that’s happened to me.”

Hart, who grew up in Stevenson, Washington and now lives in Clackamas, founded Pink Sistas Inc. 12 years ago. She is CEO of the nonprofit that offers women with breast cancer support through one -and three-day retreats at no cost.

Run by an all-volunteer five-member board, Pink Sistas’ mission is to inspire and empower women with breast cancer, helping them make connections with other women facing the same challenges.

According to the Pink Sistas website, Hart “is an inspirational speaker, mentor, friend, breast cancer survivor and breast cancer survivor/fighter confidant.” She is also an author whose book, “Tug At My Heart: Pink Is The New Black,” chronicles her grief.

About 250 cancer survivors go on Pink Sistas retreats per year, she said. The one-day retreats run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and include paddle boarding, kayaking and lunch on the “Pink Drifta” party barge on the Columbia River.

This year, there are 17 three-day retreats scheduled between July 4 and Sept. 3. Groups of 30 women will meet for sessions Sunday through Wednesday at a Salem area retreat center. Visiting chefs provide meals and offer tips on eating healthy. There are meditation sessions, yoga classes, swimming, hot tubbing and tie dyeing activities.

“Groups include women of all ages and ethnic backgrounds,” Hart said. “The common denominator is breast cancer.”

In order to keep Pink Sistas’ programs free to cancer survivors, the nonprofit relies on donations and holds fundraisers throughout the year. In May, they host a 5K walk and run event, a golf tournament benefit in June, and October is breast cancer awareness month.

“Some women it takes them years to get the courage to seek out and find other women that have the same side effects,” Hart said. “There’s a lot of healing. A lot of magical things that go on at these retreats.
“Cancer survivors face a lonely journey. Family members try very hard to be there for them and are there for them. But they don’t understand what the cancer survivor is going through.”

Grief has played a big part in Hart’s life. She said, “I am healed every single time I get to go and teach women how to have fun on the Columbia River.”

For more information about Pink Sistas or how to donate, go online to

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