Meet LoHud’s Battling Breast Cancer Blogger: Rica Mendes of South Salem

A note from Journal News editor Liz Johnson:

You all can already see that Rica Mendes, a single mom from South Salem, will be leading this Battling Breast Cancer blog, and sharing her story all month.

But features writer Linda Lombroso will introduce readers to Rica in print, too, this Sunday. Here’s a sneak peek at Linda’s story — one that I’m sure will help you get to know (and love!) Rica.

Rica is so brave to share her story here with us, and we’re very happy to have her.

Photo by Xavier Mascareñas / The Journal News

The story, after the jump.

Rica Mendes was already blogging about her volunteer work with LIVESTRONG, the foundation created by cancer survivor Lance Armstrong, when she learned that she herself had cancer.

Mendes, who was diagnosed in July with invasive, early-stage breast cancer, will be sharing her story on the Battling Breast Cancer Blog at LoHud.com, the website of The Journal News. We couldn’t think of a better moderator to lead the blog, which we created as a companion to our breast cancer coverage.

Mendes will lead what will hope will be an empowering discussion among local breast cancer survivors — and those who support them — through the month of October. On the blog, readers will be able to share advice, resources and referrals.

They will also be able to interact with doctors and other professionals during weekly chats, held at noon Thursdays, Oct. 6 through Oct. 27. And don’t worry, we’ll be sure to remind you!

Getting diagnosed with breast cancer just days after her 37th birthday was a “fluke,’’ says Mendes, a single mother and competitive mountain biker who had her first mammogram to set a good example as a LIVESTRONG leader and fundraiser.

“I’ve got friends who say either somebody was looking over me, or my body was trying to tell me something, when I got involved so actively with LIVESTRONG a few years ago,’’ she says.

Mendes had a double mastectomy in August — Lance Armstrong tweeted her the next day, urging her to “live strong,” she says — and will soon start chemotherapy. In mid-October, she plans to travel to Austin, Texas, for the annual LIVESTRONG Challenge and Ride for the Roses, where she says she will shave her head.

Mendes’ two children, Zach, 13, and Ariella, 9, will accompany her on the trip.

Born and raised in Pound Ridge, Mendes attended Oberlin College. She lives in South Salem, works as the web operations manager for a startup in Stamford, Conn., and describes herself as a “social media maven.’’

Mendes is grateful for the support of the LIVESTRONG community, where she’s made friends from all over. In mid-September, she was among a handful of volunteer leaders invited to Gracie Mansion, where she met Armstrong in person.

Cycling, she says, continues to be a passion — and she plans to keep up her long bike rides in the months ahead.

“Cancer may have taken my breasts, but I’m not letting it stop me,’’ she says. “Lance has this great line, ‘Pain is temporary, quitting is forever.’ I use it as my mantra.”

Liz Johnson

Liz Johnson is the food editor of The Journal News and LoHud.com, for which she's won awards from the New York News Publishers Association, the Association of Food Journalists and the Associated Press. She lives in Nyack with her husband and daughter on a tiny suburban lot they call their farm — with fruit trees, an herb garden, and a yardful of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, shallots, cucumbers, zucchini, radishes, cabbage, peppers, Brussels sprouts and carrots and four big blueberry bushes.