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Former beauty queen battles breast cancer while helping others

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SEATTLE — Tera Elizabeth Martin is no stranger to the limelight. The former Miss Greater Seattle USA was back in front of a camera this summer, posing for her latest photo shoot, but these pictures serve a higher purpose.

“I actually found a lump through self-examination and went to get checked out for it and I found out that I am Stage 3 B cancer for breast cancer,” Martin said.

beauty queen cancerThe news didn’t come as too much of a surprise for the 28-year-old as breast cancer is common in her family and she and her younger sister Ashley are carriers of the BRCA cancer gene.

“She’s 28-years-old and you don’t think that it would hit home this soon. I do also have those thoughts, ‘Am I going to get breast cancer or not because of the family history?’ But you don’t think this young,” Ashley said.

Martin is in the minority. Only about 5 percent of all breast cancer cases in the U.S. occur in women under 40. But with over 232,000 women expected to be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year, she is by no means alone. Rather than sit quietly and deal with the cancer, Martin decided to go public. She shaved her head, took pictures and started blogging about the experience.

“Just showing people you can still be beautiful while you’re bald. I know how frightening it is to lose your hair and to see other women my age not go with a wig or feel scared to lose their hair, I wanted to show them, ‘Hey I did it you can do it, too’,” she said.

It’s that attitude that prompted Martin to form the Pink Gene Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps women pay for genetic testing and, if they do have the BRCA gene, get the care and support they need.

“When my grandmother passed away six years ago I wanted to launch a non-profit organization,” Martin said.

Thanks to all the Tera and Ashley’s hard work, the Pink Gene Foundation is off and running. In fact, it’s gained so much momentum that it will hold its first “Bald and Beautiful Gala” later this month.

“Everyday she comes up with something new that we need to do and I’m like you need to take a break for a second or just stop for a second, slow down,” Ashley said. “Sometimes I literally say to her, ‘Tera, you have cancer — you can take a day off.’ She’s like, ‘No, let’s go.’ It’s inspiring. She’s like full force and so I think that is a tool that she uses to keep her going and the momentum and keep her positive. I think that if she did slow down it wouldn’t be Tera, so I’m not surprised. She wants to be Tera — she just doesn’t want to be Tera with cancer.”

“Next for me? Well, of course I’m going to beat cancer — that’s going to be a huge step in my life,” Tera said. “Secondly, I would love to share my story with others and spread the word and be an inspiration and let other women know that there is hope and that they can do this and be strong and be themselves while they do it.”

Visit the following websites more information: Pink Gene Foundation and the Bald & Beautiful Gala.

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