Hours after undergoing a double mastectomy, Claire Florence woke up in the recovery room with the image of East Hampton in her mind. The artist and mother of four, who was living in Washington D.C. at the time, decided to take this devastating diagnosis as an opportunity to reassess her family’s priorities.
“The Hamptons has always been my creative inspiration. There’s no other place like it,” she says.
Now, nearly two years later, Florence is in remission and her family has relocated to the area. While the move was a complete change in lifestyle, she also found support in a community of breast cancer survivors after attending the Hamptons Paddle and Party for Pink last year.
“That was the first time I bonded with a group of breast cancer survivors,” Florence said.
She learned about the event after being introduced to its founder and member of BCRF’s Board of Directors, Maria Baum. They connected over their shared experiences as breast cancer survivors and mothers to four children.
“Maria is such an inspiring person. Her positive attitude is something I wanted to surround myself with.”
Florence was struck by the generosity of the Hamptons community and also felt deeply connected to the breast cancer survivors who attended the Hamptons Paddle and Party for Pink in 2016.
“It was such a powerful event,” she said recalling the stories she heard from other survivors. “I am thrilled to take on a greater role to support breast cancer research,” she said.
This year she joined the event’s host committee and will be paddling alongside her husband and four children at the race on August 5.
“We are excited to cross our own personal finish line,” she said pointing to her family’s collective struggles and experience with her diagnosis.
Diagnosed nearly two years ago, Florence’s breast cancer was detected on her first mammogram at age 45. With no family history of the disease and living a healthy lifestyle, the diagnosis came as a shock.
“It was terrifying,” she said. “I just had to count my blessings and roll with it.”
Facing breast cancer led her to reexamine her life. After her diagnosis and treatment, she felt there was a higher calling beyond the everyday pressures of juggling the needs of her family.
“Cancer was a wake up call to slow down,” she said. “Enjoying our family, helping others and simply living a more balanced life are our new priorities.”
They decided to buy a home in East Hampton where they embraced the free-spirited, artistic nature of the area. Not only did their landscape change, but so did the way Florence saw herself as a breast cancer survivor dedicated to giving back and sharing her story.
“One of the most difficult times in our lives changed us for the better,” Florence says.
This year Florence feels embraced by the Hamptons community. An advocate for breast cancer research, she hopes scientific breakthroughs will provide more treatment options for those newly diagnosed.
“As a breast cancer survivor I feel that I have been blessed with a second life,” she said. “This event is full of people who are grateful for this second chance. I want to help further build this inspiring community.”