Everyday Heroes: Deb Hart and the Pink Sistas

Deb Hart talks to KATU about battling breast cancer, and her nonprofit, Pink Sistas.

It’s been a rough road for Deb Hart.

Shortly after her son died, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. That one-two punch, she said, mired her for years.

“After a lot of grief and being stuck in grief, I decided it was time for me to start making a difference in other people’s lives,” Deb said.

So five years ago she started Pink Sistas, a nonprofit dedicated to providing retreats for breast cancer survivors.

At least six times a year, Deb opens up her home on the Columbia River to breast cancer survivors for the weekend. She cooks for them and hosts a variety of activities, from jewelry-making to pontoon rides down the river.

The idea, Deb said, is to provide a relaxing space for these survivors to open up and talk about their lives in a way that they can’t with people who haven’t shared the same experience.

“We now have been changed,” Deb said of herself and her fellow survivors. “We no longer are what we were before. It’s a lonely journey. We seclude our family because our family thinks that we’re back to normal, and we’re not.”

Deb said the women who come on these free retreats often end up becoming friends.

That was certainly the case for Mary Zogg, Deb’s friend and a breast cancer survivor, who went on a retreat a year and a half ago.

“It was just a time to relax, share my story, talk to other women who were going through [breast cancer],” Mary said.

Zogg said even though she finished her treatment more than 20 years ago, sharing the retreat with other survivors was well worth her time.

“I wish something like this existed 21 years ago,” Mary told KATU.

The retreat, a floating home with a fantastic view of the Columbia River, is at a marina near Fairview. Being at the gateway to the Gorge, Deb said, is not a coincidence.

“In the Gorge there’s very little awareness for breast cancer,” Deb said. “In Portland you can go to a pink event every single week – not so much in The Dalles, Hood River, Washougal or Camas.”

Pink Sistas is a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Deb said it relies on volunteer donations from big events like their forthcoming Pink in the Gorge fundraiser to keep the retreats operating.

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