The Athena® Warriors
As the daughter of an oncologist, Athena® Warrior Amy Grant remembers hearing her father break down when he had to tell a woman she had breast cancer. In the 1970s, when Amy was growing up, a breast cancer diagnosis almost always meant one of two things – disfiguring surgery or certain death.
A lot has changed since then, thanks to increased awareness, groundbreaking research and better treatments. Yet Amy, who was signed to her first record label at age 15 and went on to become a six-time Grammy Award winning singer and songwriter, still has a special place in her heart for those battling breast cancer. Several of her friends are breast cancer survivors, and Amy and her husband, Vince Gill, have contributed their time and voices to numerous cancer causes. Amy's hit single "Better than a Hallelujah," written by Chapin Hartford and Sarah Hart, particularly resonated with her as she dealt with the ovarian cancer death of her longtime friend, musician Ruth McGinnis. Amy's most recent album, How Mercy Looks From Here, debuted at number one on Billboard's Christian Albums chart.
Amy's career spans over 25 years and stretches from her roots in gospel into becoming an iconic pop star, songwriter, television personality and philanthropist. She has sold more than 30 million albums, had six number one hits and been awarded a star on the legendary Walk of Fame in Hollywood. In addition to her six Grammys, Amy has earned 26 Dove awards and is a four-time Dove Artist of the Year. Her book, Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far, debuted in 2007.
Conventional wisdom has it that Amy put Contemporary Christian music on the map. She achieved such breakthroughs as being the first Contemporary Christian artist to have a platinum record, the first to hit number one on the Pop charts, and the first to perform at the Grammys. Perhaps her greatest professional accomplishment was to open the door for a flood of other artists in pop and rock to sing about faith and soul and family and still grasp stardom. With that, her legacy as one of the most influential artists of the past couple of decades is assured.
Yet Amy's legacy will most certainly reach beyond her music. As an Athena® Warrior, Amy reaches out to women battling breast cancer and to those who love them with quiet determination and true compassion. Amy sings about love and loss, faith and heartbreak, hope and healing. Her life is as genuine – and as beautiful – as her songs.
Award-winning country singer Kellie Pickler lives straight from her heart. Few can bridge life and art, story and song, so vibrantly and compellingly. So when her best friend, Summer Miller, was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 36 in 2012, Kellie knew she wanted to flight this battle with Summer. A week before Summer started chemotherapy, Kellie shaved her head in solidarity with the friend she calls her sister. Kellie asked Athena® Water to join her in spreading awareness about breast cancer to younger women.
Not long afterward, Kellie appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show still sporting her recently shaved head to help support breast cancer awareness month. During the visit, Kellie presented a $10,000 donation from Athena® to a breast cancer organization of Ellen's choice: Ellen for the Cure. Later, Kellie and Summer also presented a $35,000 donation from Athena to the American Cancer Society.
Summer has been cancer free for a little over a year now. These days, both Athena® Warrior Kellie and cancer survivor Summer sport cute, short haircuts and continue to advocate for early breast cancer detection. Kellie recently released her fourth album, The Woman I Am. The critically-acclaimed album includes two songs that she co-wrote with her husband, songwriter/producer Kyle Jacobs, including the title song.
"My life is a country song," Kellie has said on occasion, and indeed it is. Kellie"s rise to stardom began on American Idol, when she was just 19. A small-town North Carolina girl, who knows her family history made her into the strong, spunky and resilient person that she is today. Kellie"s beautiful spirit and natural good humor won the hearts of countless fans. After placing sixth on American Idol in 2006, she went on to record her first album, which produced three Top 20 hits, was certified Gold, and has sold more than 900,000 copies. Since then, Kellie has continued to record hit albums, perform in concert and earn the admiration and affection of countless fans serving as both an inspiration and role model. She has participated in seven USO tours thus far, and has worked with multiple charities.
In 2013, Kellie competed on Dancing with the Stars, which she and her partner, Derek Hough, ultimately won. But despite her stardom, Kellie remains a delightful, approachable woman with a wide-open heart. She continues to fight with Summer. And, as an Athena® Warrior, she continues to fight for a cure.
Karen Gooding, the North Carolina freelance writer who pens the Athena blog, is a three-time cancer survivor and eternal optimist. Diagnosed with breast cancer at age 34 in 1995, she underwent a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and reconstructive surgery and then got back to her favorite job, raising daughter Elizabeth, then 5, and son Thomas, then 2.
She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007 and with recurrent ovarian cancer in 2012. After extensive surgery and relatively new methods of chemotherapy, she and her husband, Jim, enjoy spending time with family and friends, as well as living vicariously through their now college-age children.
Karen began her career as a features writer for The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC, and went on to write for a variety of local, regional and national publications. Her role model is her mom, Libby Fisher, a 40-year breast cancer survivor, whose giving spirit and positive outlook inspire her every day. An angel band of friends and family have encouraged Karen along the way, teaching her to overlook the bad (and no) hair days and the constellation of scars on her torso and to focus on what really matters.
As an Athena® Warrior, she believes in being armed with accurate information, a great support system and a boundless sense of humor. Karen recently celebrated her 50th birthday, and more than anything, she appreciates the profoundly ordinary moments that make life extraordinary.