Combatting Chemo with Kindness While Facing TNBC at the Age of 28


The 16-week challenge was simple: do something kind each week during my chemo treatment and tell me about it on social media. The goal was ambitious: 1,600 acts.

Imagine the juxtaposition of facing a breast cancer diagnosis and eight rounds of chemotherapy with the uplifting nature of kindness. When I was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) in 2020 at the age of 28, that’s exactly what I decided to do. On my first day of chemotherapy treatment on Oct. 19, 2020, I launched the Chemo to Kindness℠Challenge to help lift me up during my anticipated hard days and spread awareness that:

  • breast cancer doesn’t discriminate - I was not too young.
  • being your own advocate matters.
  • kindness can save a life.

The Start of the Challenge

On a beautiful late-summer morning in 2020, I went to a doctor’s appointment that would change my life forever. It was August 26, and the sun was shining down on the North Carolina highway as I was driving a few miles in the opposite direction thanks to taking a wrong turn. Upon entering the facility, I was greeted by a nurse whose kindness and warmth turned my day around. And when she later questioned me having a breast exam, I knew she was put in my path for a reason.

Spoiler alert: that day a lump was found in my right breast, and after a series of appointments, advocating for myself and eventually getting the call that I had cancer, it was determined that I would be facing Triple Negative Breast Cancer at the age of 28.

After my diagnosis, I knew I wanted to face this beast in my own way. I decided that I wanted to create something that honored the nurse’s kindness and follow my life mantras to “seize the day” and “make an impact.” I started thinking about how fun and interactive challenges can be to spread awareness, and I realized the importance of sharing my journey after having to advocate so many times.

Alas, the Chemo to Kindness℠Challenge was born.

What was the Chemo to Kindness℠Challenge?

Lorelei Colbert on social media talking about her Chemo to Kindness challenge

The 16-week challenge was simple: do something kind each week during my chemo treatment and tell me about it on social media. The goal was ambitious: 1,600 acts.

I had recently heard about the benefits of sharing acts of kindness to lift others up, so I had hoped that the challenge would lift up communities during an already challenging year, in addition to spreading awareness. If I was tagged in a post, I would share the good deed. I also started doing weekly updates to share how many acts of kindness we, the kindness community, had initiated and highlight some standouts each week.

I had no idea just how much this would help set the tone for my treatment experience. The challenge helped me focus on the positive during a hard time, be a part of something bigger than myself and tap into my why.

After my first chemo (the “red devil” and cyclophosphamide), I had side effects from the nausea medication and my vision was blurred for nearly a week. I could not watch TV or read, and had to bow my head inches from the table to see the food I was grabbing off my plate. But still, my husband and best friend read the acts of kindness aloud to me. Talk about uplifting– the challenge did more for me during this time than I could have ever imagined.

Diving Into the Acts of Kindness

We had more than 1,700 acts of kindness shared from countries around the world. There were people who showed up for me from different stages of my life and strangers who heard about the challenge and wanted to get involved. In honor of the 16-week challenge, here are 16 acts of kindness that were shared with me while I was faced eight rounds of chemotherapy. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I do:

1. Bought my friend (a frontline worker) coffee.

2. I took the time to tell my class all about you and what you're going through. As a class, we asked veterans who work at the high school and veterans within our own families to come into our virtual classroom on Veterans Day so we can thank them for their service. We thought it would be great to then use this kind act to write about and use for your challenge. My colleagues and students want to wish you good health and all the best during your recovery!

3. I bought a 2021 planner for an elderly patient because she didn’t know how she was going to get to the store and get one to keep track of all her doctors’ appointments for the new year. Something as small as a planner brightened her day and let her know that someone was thinking of her.

4. I made two donations this week in your honor, dear Lorelei! One to St. Jude's Children's Hospital and one to the American Cancer Society – both charities that I had never given to before! Do so pray the chemo wasn't too bad this week. Half-way through.

5. I had helped my father make cookies.

6. Delivered care packages to the homeless in Philadelphia!

7. The woman in front of me at the grocery store last week forgot her credit card and couldn't pay for her Thanksgiving groceries, so I paid for them and asked that she pay it forward in an act of kindness for someone else.

8. I donated my time to teach a group fitness class on Thanksgiving and raise money for the local food bank in your honor. I admire your beauty and strength through this journey - You are an inspiration to all of us! Stay strong!

9. Picked up some litter I saw on the sidewalk.

10. My friend was having conflicting feelings after spending a weekend with a person of interest, and doubting her self-worth. I reminded her what I think of her and the truth: that she is beautiful, SO deserving of love (if she wants it), and enough.

11. I bought big bags of dog food for a homeless man to feed his dog. I see them often near my apartment and the dog looks so malnourished. The man was so grateful to be able to feed his dog and it warmed my heart.

12. I reached out to a close friend I haven’t spoken with in a while. Really great to check in and see what others are doing in their lives.

13. Act of Kindness week 9 for Lorelei: This week I donated to the V foundation on behalf of Lorelei and athletes everywhere who suffer with cancer.

14. Paid for the person behind me at Starbucks. I was having an off day, and I love how doing something so small can lift my spirits!

15. I shared a poem with my dad. I was trying to think of a way I could show him love without actually going to visit. We don’t have a perfect relationship, but I realized he’s doing the best he can with what he has. He was so inspired by the poem; he mentioned a book we should read together and discuss weekly. Now we’re talking regularly and having conversations about things I never would have expected. I have so many more acts to share, a lot has been about kindness toward myself, too.

16. My first act of kindness this week was actually for me … I finally got my mammogram!!

Uplifting, right? It’s hard to believe we can multiply this list by 100, and that list still won’t cover the magnitude of these acts! As the acts rolled in, this community impacted more than 75 non-profits and uplifted countless others.

Creating this challenge – and beating TNBC – are two of the most important accomplishments of my life. You can find joy during hard times by creating it.

Be kind and check your boobs!

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