Sasha Provost tries on a wedding dress
LAKEWOOD RANCH, Florida -- Surrounded by wedding dresses and her children, Sasha Provost prepares to be a bride.
It may seem unusual, but Sasha's fiance not only sees her dress before the wedding - he helps pick it out. But this is a special kind of wedding.
They're shopping for dresses at the Lakewood Ranch boutique of Brides Against Breast Cancer, a nonprofit that has about a thousand donated dresses in its inventory. The money they make goes toward cancer programs.
Sasha gets to see both sides of what the organization does because she's both a bride-to-be and a woman who has been diagnosed with cancer.
"At first, they said I was breastfeeding, so my milk glands were engorged and that was it and they put me on birth control," Sasha says.
But the lump was still there years later, and felt like it had spread to her underarm, but her doctor wouldn't give her a mammogram. She was finally able to get a voucher from the Susan G. Komen Foundation that funds mammograms. At 32 years old, Sasha, a mother of five children and stepchildren, was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer.
"They were saying, when I was diagnosed with Stage 3, that they're thankful they didn't catch it too late," Sasha recalls, "and now it is too late."
The cancer has spread to her bones and spine, and she's currently taking the drug Tamoxifen. She's trying to save up enough money so her three daughters can get bracket testing to determine their genetic risk. She also hopes regulations will change to allow access to mammograms at a younger age.
The news has sped up the family's wedding planning. They're now getting married next month.
"My 8-year-old, I want her to have some memories as far as walking down the aisle," Sasha says.
That's where Brides Against Breast Cancer comes in. Between the personal stylists and deep discounts, it makes wedding planning easier for a cancer survivor who also cares for five children.
"A program like this is unbelievable," she says. "It's amazing that women are willing to put forth the time to find something that's so beautiful, and then not to have to worry about anything - it's amazing."
And that's exactly how the group wants to help.
"I come from a family with breast cancer history and meeting amazing people like Sasha every day, this experience gave her hope, and we're happy that we could participate in that experience for her," says Amy Paulishak with Brides Against Breast Cancer. "It's life-changing for everyone."
It's a change for Sasha that's turned a frightening experience into hope. She credits her children and fiance with helping her to stay upbeat every day.
"When the doctor told me that I had cancer, there was a voice in my head that was very clear that said, 'This is not what you're going to die from.' And I believe that highly," she says. "It's just a matter of having faith and staying strong."