Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

A Big Believer in Giving Back




 

When she was in her 20s, Elizabeth Yanak thought she was invincible. She was surprised when her family doctor asked if she did breast self-exams. But she did them anyway. And it may have saved her life.

At age 27, she found a mass in her breast that turned out to be breast cancer. Her trust and belief in her care team at the Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Bethel Park Health + Wellness Pavilion helped her get through a tough year of treatment. Now, as a cancer survivor, she offers hope to other cancer patients through her annual Believe Big event.

This is the second year Elizabeth and her husband, Jay, have organized Believe Big at the Kolor-N-Kiln Pottery Studio at the Mall at Robinson. According to Elizabeth, it was her idea, but Jay took it and ran with it. He managed the event logistics as the owner/operator of Chick-fil-A at the Mall. Elizabeth also recognized the hard work and dedication of the Chick-fil-A employees, community members, survivors, and supporters who came together to make the idea a reality.

Believe Big 2017 brought together more than 100 people to enjoy food, entertainment, and camaraderie. Participants were either being treated for cancer or attended to support a friend or family member who had been affected by the disease. They painted mugs that say “Believe” in large, colorful letters. The mugs were then donated to people battling cancer.

“The goal is to provide encouragement to local cancer patients. The night itself is intended to be fun: live music, free Chick-fil-A, and painting mugs with people you love,” said Elizabeth. “It's just some really powerful stuff!”

Committed to her care team
Elizabeth donated 80 “Believe” mugs to the Bethel Park Health + Wellness Pavilion to show her appreciation for the staff and the other patients she met there. Elizabeth explained how she deeply trusts her medical oncologist, Diane Buchbarker, MD, and her care team. They attended the event out of support for Elizabeth and their other patients.

“She cares about me as a person and values me as a whole. She treats me like I'm more than a cancer diagnosis,” Elizabeth said. “I've never used these words to describe anyone else, but Dr. B. and the nurses at Bethel Park are guardian angels here on Earth. I'm so grateful I was led to them. My cancer experience would have been drastically different without them.”

The inspiration
Elizabeth was also inspired by cancer survivor Ivelisse Page, one of the founders of Believe Big in Maryland. Elizabeth reached out to her and was moved by her genuine and giving nature. Page told Elizabeth about the mug painting events and sent her a mug in the mail.

“I was moved to think that someone had painted it thinking of me and wanted to make things better,” said Elizabeth. “I smile every time I take it out of the cupboard for morning coffee.” And it’s Jay’s favorite mug, too.

“Our short, but powerful, interaction with Believe Big led us to quote and think, "Believe Big!" the entire following year. It gave us so much hope,” said Elizabeth.

The idea of hosting a Believe Big event in Pittsburgh seemed to fit with Elizabeth and Jay’s “overwhelming desire to give back to the community.”

An outpouring of support
The Yanak’s appreciate the kindness and support of everyone who came together to help make the event a success. Kolor-N-Kiln donated the space and resources for the event.

“Like many of us, [the owner/operators of Kolor-N-Kiln] have a very personal experience with cancer,” said Elizabeth. “We all just want to make a difference and give back however we can.”

Corinne Bohjanen, another cancer survivor who was treated at Bethel Park Health + Wellness Pavilion, helped set the tone for the night, singing with the band Jupiter Vinyl.

“I was introduced to her during a chemo treatment and I remember being struck by her sincerity and beauty,” said Elizabeth. “Her personality matches her voice: calming, velvety, gentle … really, really special. At the time I met her, I didn't know that she was in a band.”

Strengthening connections
Elizabeth’s experience fighting cancer and hosting the Believe Big events has connected her with many incredibly special people. One of her nurses, Noreen, attended the event as a participant. A week later, Noreen received her own mug after being diagnosed with cancer.

“It's been so moving to see how compassionately she treated patients before diagnosis and how her diagnosis has helped her to connect on an even deeper level to provide even higher quality care,” Elizabeth added.

You can read more here:

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags


What's a ‘Spark’ and Why Should Pittsburghers Care?

What's a ‘Spark’ and Why Should Pittsburghers Care?

Sparks are relatively young — the concept for them first popped up in San Francisco in 2005. They’ve just recently appeared in other U.S. cities, including our neighbors on the other side of the state.

Comments

Third Place on 'American Idol,' First Place in the Steel City

Third Place on 'American Idol,' First Place in the Steel City

Munhall high school student Gabby Barrett finished in third place last night on ABC’s reboot of “American Idol.”

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
An Inclusive Community Breaks the Ramadan Fast at Salem's Market & Grill

An Inclusive Community Breaks the Ramadan Fast at Salem's Market & Grill

The Strip District restaurant draws a diverse community to its nightly ifṭār buffet.

Comments

Filmmaker David Bernabo Looks Beyond The Menu

Filmmaker David Bernabo Looks Beyond The Menu

He examines the visible yet unseen labor in the service industry with his documentary, "Eating & Working & Eating & Working."

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best Places to Introduce Children to the Performing Arts

Best Places to Introduce Children to the Performing Arts

When you see a show at one of these organizations, you may enjoy it as much as the children.

Comments

The 4 Best Sports to Try This Spring in Pittsburgh

The 4 Best Sports to Try This Spring in Pittsburgh

Looking to switch up your physical activity now that it finally feels like spring? We found four sports you can play locally that you may never have considered.

Comments


Take a Tricky Trip To Mars at Escape Room 51

Take a Tricky Trip To Mars at Escape Room 51

The new escape room in Pleasant Hills is a great game for newer players.

Comments

Phipps Summer Show is Bizarre and Essential

Phipps Summer Show is Bizarre and Essential

At "Gardens of Sound and Motion," Phipps offers giants, living sculptures and more oddities.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Surprising Pirates Proving to be an Acquired Taste This Season

Surprising Pirates Proving to be an Acquired Taste This Season

For the time being, at least, fans continue to send owner Bob Nutting a message wrapped in apathy.

Comments

Penguins’ Epitaph: So Close and Yet So Far Away

Penguins’ Epitaph: So Close and Yet So Far Away

To win the Stanley Cup Championship you have to be good, but you also have to be lucky. The Penguins weren’t enough of either this time.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

The 400-Word Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

The Star Wars series experiments with telling an origin story, with mixed results.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Pope Francis: A Man of His Word

The 400-Word Review: Pope Francis: A Man of His Word

The careful documentary is a valuable document of the pontiff's philosophy. As of a film, there are issues.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Wine Classes Keep the Pre-Wedding Celebration Classy

Wine Classes Keep the Pre-Wedding Celebration Classy

Palate Partners School of Wine & Spirits offers a chance for brides- and grooms-to-be to explore libations before (or instead of) a night on the town.

Comments

He Recovers from Stroke to Officiate Granddaughter's Wedding

He Recovers from Stroke to Officiate Granddaughter's Wedding

It was always Ashley Watkins’ dream to have her grandfather perform her wedding ceremony — but a serious illness almost got in the way.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
From Milan to Pittsburgh: These are the Kitchen Concepts of the Future

From Milan to Pittsburgh: These are the Kitchen Concepts of the Future

Local interior designer Lauren Levant traveled to Italy for the influential Salon del Mobile show featuring the latest innovations in the furniture and design industry. With an emphasis on quality over quantity, these are the kitchen concepts she says will be making their way stateside.

Comments

Get Creative: Pittsburgh Podcast Inspires 'Girl Bosses'

Get Creative: Pittsburgh Podcast Inspires 'Girl Bosses'

Thinking about starting a creative business but don't know where to start? From photography to interior design, Gamechangers, the new podcast from local textile designer Savannah Hayes, gives a behind-the-scenes look at the design industry from the female perspective.

Comments

Edit Module