One of the most difficult moments of Rosemary Carrera’s battle with breast cancer was the time she spent away from her little girl.
She missed Alessi’s first steps. Her first word: “Mom.”
But, thankfully, Carrera caught the cancer early. The new mom visited her doctor for an unrelated medical issue and left with an appointment for a mammogram because she was 40, the recommended age to begin breast cancer screening.
In August 2018, Carrera was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, the most common type of breast cancer. It was stage two, which meant the cancer was growing but hadn’t spread beyond the breast and its surrounding lymph nodes.
She opted for a double mastectomy, followed by four months of chemotherapy and six months of radiation at the Miami Cancer Institute at Baptist Health South Florida. She then underwent reconstruction surgery.
Carrera left her job as an optometrist at Suarez Optical in Westchester to focus on her health. Her family stepped in to help with 8-month-old Alessi. There were times Carrera couldn’t carry her because of surgery, or times she couldn’t be near her because of chemo.
“And, you know, as much FaceTime as you can do, it’s not the same,” Carrera said.
But Carrera, 43, was lucky to have a strong support network.
“During this time, I met other women at the hospital who didn’t have that kind of local support, or they didn’t have family here, or they had just moved to the area. And so we were looking for resources that could assist them with things like childcare and transportation. And we couldn’t find anything,” Carrera said. “And I was like, how can it be that we’re in a big city, like Miami, and these resources aren’t readily available?”
So the breast cancer survivor founded 305 Pink Pack, and in January 2020 it got its 501(c)(3) nonprofit designation.
Its mission: To provide free services, ranging from housecleaning to childcare, to women undergoing cancer treatment in Miami-Dade County, for breast cancer or any type of cancer. This way, they “can focus on their healing, and that they can focus on time with their families,” said Carrera.
Its most requested service? Uber transportation to cancer treatments.
“Most of the women who have enrolled in our program don’t have access to a vehicle so they rely on public transportation, and based on where these women live, getting to their treatment centers would sometimes require a three-hour commute on public transportation,” Carrera said. “And I can tell you that the last thing you want to do after you’re done with a six-hour chemo session is to get on a bus for three hours.”
The nonprofit provides haircuts and helps women get wigs and nail treatments to counter the effects of chemo, and offers oncology massages, henna tattoos and one-on-one sessions with a life coach. Another critical aspect: support and mentoring groups to connect women with other cancer patients.
Since January 2021, 305 Pink Pack has provided more than 1,600 rides to cancer treatments, more than 100 home and personal care services and 125 grocery deliveries. Its fund to help women with Stage 4 breast cancer, also known as metastatic breast cancer, has recently expanded to help women with any stage 4 cancer.
Carrera said the nonprofit has helped 96 women, a count it hopes to increase in 2022, but it will depend on the funds it raises in October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Several businesses have signed on for “Pink for the Pack” to help the nonprofit raise funds, including Mercedes-Benz in Coral Gables and Cutler Bay, which is donating to the nonprofit and has decorated its dealerships with 305 Pink Pack swag.
Bachour, which won Miami New Times 2021 “Reader’s Choice” for “Best Desserts,” will donate $1 with every purchase of a 305 Pink Pack-inspired cheesecake at its Doral and Coral Gables locations.
Wynwood Brewing Company has turned its “La Rubia” drink into “La Rosa,” a pink-colored beer for October. The brewery will donate $1 to the nonprofit for every “La Rosa” it sells.
305 Pink Pack also will participate in the “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” Walk on Oct. 23 at LoanDepot Park in Little Havana.
Getting help through Pink Pack
305 Pink Pack will reopen applications for its services in January. Women interested in applying can do so online at 305pinkpack.org by calling 305-859-1224, or contacting the social worker at their cancer treatment center.
This story was originally published October 14, 2021 2:40 PM.