by Rachel Stengel '14, '20
There have been so many milestones for Lorelei Colbert ’14 in 2021. She celebrated her first wedding anniversary to fellow Bronc Andrew Pozo ’15, one year of owning her first home, one year since she adopted her dog, Charlie Mei, and one year of being diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer.
Just 28 years old at the time of her diagnosis, Colbert was planning to move to Japan on her husband’s military orders. During a physical exam, per military protocol, she met a nurse who encouraged her to have a breast exam even though she was young and recently had one. Because of the nurse's vibrant personality, Colbert agreed. That day, a 3.6 centimeter lump was found.
“I really attribute a large part of my journey to my nurse and her kindness,” Colbert says. “It was pretty aggressive in that it was the highest grade of cancer. If I had waited, who knows what would have happened.”
Facing 16 weeks of chemotherapy, Colbert wanted to find a way to raise awareness, and she couldn't stop thinking about the influence the nurse had on her life.
“I thought about how impactful one act of kindness can be,” she says.
Colbert launched the Chemo to Kindness Challenge on her first day of chemotherapy treatment, posting about it on her social media accounts. Colbert hoped to see 100 acts of kindness for each week of chemo encouraging people to #1600acts.
The outpouring was so expansive, she couldn't keep up at first. She quickly launched loreleicolbert.com where people could submit their acts, recognizing the halo effect she created.
Her elementary school art teacher taught a lesson about kindness and coloring cancer ribbons. A Rider professor had students track their acts of kindness to submit. Friends, family and strangers made donations to more than 70 organizations worldwide. She exceeded her original goal with more than 1,700 acts of kindness completed, and counting.
“This challenge lifted me up so much during challenging times, especially with the hard side effects from chemo,” she says. “Being able to read, or to have stories read to me, about the good going on in the world was really uplifting and empowering.”
Now a survivor, Colbert has inspired other women facing breast cancer to create their own challenges, without the stress of the numerical goal, she says. One woman asks for acts of kindness during each chemo session, another requests new goals for each session like learn a new skill and practice self-care. Colbert says, it is a model that uplifts everyone involved.
Being so open about her cancer journey is something she struggled with initially, but she hopes her vulnerability has inspired others.
“Never did I think I’d be talking about my breasts online, but if it can save someone or help someone else show up for their loved ones better, then I’ll be vulnerable,” she says.