Before: Barbara Hensley, an executive at a large Minnesota company, lived on a lake with her husband and two sons. “My job was fun and challenging,” she said. “I loved going to work and truly enjoyed the people I worked with.”
Her Diagnosis: While Hensley never had breast cancer, she lost her sisters Kathy and Patsy to the disease. “When Kathy called to tell me she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, I was in shock,” she said. “It never occurred to me that she might die from the disease.” Six months later, her sister, Patsy, called to say she had been diagnosed with breast cancer as well. “I knew enough to be really scared,” Hensley said. “It was like a kick in the stomach.” After Patsy died, Hensley decided to undergo a preventative mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.
Her Reinvention: Hensley became concerned about breast cancer patients who had small children to care for and support. How did they manage, she wondered. “I knew how awful the disease was,” Hensley said. “But I had never really thought about how bad it would be not to know where the next rent payment was coming from or how to feed the children.”
As a legacy to her sisters, she quit her job and founded The Hope Chest for Breast Cancer to provide emergency assistance to under-served and financially challenged breast cancer patients, paying rent, utilities, transportation, and child care while in treatment. They also deliver Hope Chest Meals that Heal.
To fund the emergency assistance programs, The Hope Chest has independently owned retail stores that sell upscale furniture, decorative accessories and designer woman's clothing that is all donated. To date, they’ve provided over $1,000,000 to local breast cancer patients. “I am still so very sad that my sisters are not here with me and their families, and I always will be,” Hensley said. “However, I truly believe they are up there saying, ‘You go girl!’ and cheering me and the Hope Chest on.”