In 2011, Sonia Ray was the perfect picture of health. At 34 years old, she had been happily married for eleven years and the mother of two sons – 11 and 13. Sonia had no previous health issues and no family history of breast cancer, but when she suddenly felt symptoms of breast cancer such as pain in her breasts, she demanded a mammogram, even though her doctors said she was too young. The mammogram revealed a five-centimeter mass, leading to a Stage 3, rapid growth breast cancer diagnosis.
“You have to be an advocate for your own body,” said Sonia. “You know your body best, so you know when something’s not right.”
During treatment, she and a fellow breast cancer patients realized that while the north side of Atlanta seemed to have a lot of support for women fighting breast cancer, the south side did not seem to have as many resources. What started as a support group focused on the south side of Atlanta meeting in a parking lot turned into Harbor of Hope, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging, supporting, connecting with and ministering to breast cancer patients, survivors and their families. From providing women with free wigs and prostheses to helping patients pay their bills during treatment, they support patients on the south side of Atlanta in every avenue they can.
“Going through this journey helped me find my purpose in life because through this journey, I was able to co-found Harbor of Hope,” said Sonia. “The foundation has really become part of my purpose, and I was able to discover that there is more out there than the perfect life I thought I was living.”
After seven years with no evidence of disease (NED), Sonia received a second, extremely rare diagnosis earlier this year: her breast cancer returned. Despite her unexpected diagnosis, Sonia’s faith and strong support system give her a continued positive outlook on what’s to come.
“I know that if God did something amazing throughout the first journey, and I was able to co-found this non-profit, I know He’s going to do something amazing through this one too,” said Sonia. “Being part of Project Zero is already something that I feel He’s opened a door to for this second journey. Everything that I’ve done, all the medication that I’ve taken or the chemotherapies, it started at some point as research. Any way that I can participate to raise awareness, to raise funds for research, I’ll be the first one up. Because I don’t want anyone else to have to have to go through this.”
Sonia and other survivors partnered with Mizuno and Fleet Feet this year for Project Zero to fight for a cure for breast cancer, turning one in eight women who will be diagnosed in her lifetime to zero in eight.
For the second year in a row, Project Zero will raise funds to benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the largest non-profit organization in the world that funds breakthrough research for breast cancer treatments and prevention. This year, Mizuno has designed a special-edition BCRF running shoe for Project Zero where $10 dollars from each shoe will go directly toward funding BCRF’s life-saving research. The running shoes, along with other inspiring stories of survivors and supporters, are available at Fleet Feet stores nationwide or online at MizunoUSA.com/ProjectZero.
Share your story of inspiration or support using hashtag #projectzero.