Mother and daughter to participate in Stars of Pink fashion show


It was June 27, 2016, on Deborah Pillers’ 65th birthday, when she received a call from her daughter, Dr. Amanda Dick, to wish her a happy birthday. Along with the birthday greeting, Pillers received the news that Amanda had just been diagnosed with breast cancer.

"She would tell this differently, but in my head it was ‘happy birthday, Mom. I’m having a bilateral mastectomy,’" Pillers said. "Her surgery was scheduled for July 15, in Greenwood, and then the day before her procedure, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, too."

Pillers, who now lives in Seymour, was living in northern Illinois at the time of her and her daughter’s diagnosis. Pillers had just gone in for her annual mammogram and was asked to come back for further testing and soon after, she had to go back for a biopsy.

"The whole time, I was not worried one bit," Pillers said. "It’s just one of those things and I’d never had to go back before, but I wasn’t even contemplating I might have cancer."

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The day before Amanda’s surgery, Pillers worked part of the day, then went to get the results of her own tests and biopsy.

"As the nurse was leading me back, I could see the edge of a pink and white book and that’s when it hit me that I had cancer, then the doctor came in and confirmed it," Pillers said. "I didn’t have time to emote or anything, but I got in my car and drove straight to Greenwood for Amanda’s surgery, which was taking place first thing the next morning, and I still hadn’t told anyone."

Dr. Amanda Dick of Seymour was in her 30’s when she was diagnosed with Stage 2A invasive ductal carcinoma, a common type of breast cancer.

Amanda became suspicious of a small lump on her right breast. She had just finished nursing her youngest son, and a muscle near the right breast felt a little sore, but she thought it was sore from exercising.

She said her first thought was that maybe there was a little milk duct that was clogged. Then she decided to get imaging done because that’s what she would have told a patient with those symptoms.

Pillers said her daughter’s cancer was more invasive then hers, so it wasn’t their best year. She said her own cancer was more of a minor inconvenience to her, compared to her daughter’s.

"I came down and stayed awhile after Amanda’s surgery, but the worst part was that I couldn’t come down to help her later," Pillers said. "I was having radiation and treatments five days a week and then going to work."

She simply did not have the energy to come down and help her daughter, whose youngest child, Finnegan, was only 9 or 10 months old. Since Pillers and Amanda had cancer back-to-back, they had extensive genetic testing done.

Pillers has a genetic defect called Lynch syndrome, which increases the chances of cancer in her family. The defect, also known as hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), is a type of inherited cancer syndrome associated with a genetic predisposition to different cancer types.

According to, people who have Lynch syndrome have a significantly increased risk of developing colorectal and also other types of cancers, such as endometrial (uterine), stomach, breast, ovarian, small bowel (intestinal), pancreatic, prostate, urinary tract, liver, kidney and bile duct cancers.

"That’s why we’re trying to really take care of the grandkids, such as their diet, because of the syndrome," Pillers said.

Her other daughter, Dr. Sara Rose Danesi, has had her uterus removed and she just turned 35 and she also opted to have a bilateral mastectomy. Sara is a psychologist and lives northwest of Chicago, where Pillers used to live.

"I wouldn’t be brave enough to do that, but worrying about getting cancer was too stressful for her," Pillers said. "She didn’t have to have chemotherapy since she hasn’t had any cancer, so the surgeries were preventative measures."

Pillers’ father died of cancer when she was 2 years old and her mother had a malignant melanoma twice, but that’s not what she died from. Both of her brothers died from cancer and two of her nieces had cancer, too.

Pillers said Indianapolis-based Pink Ribbon Connection needed people who had been cancer free for at least one year, up to 25 years, for the 25th anniversary of the Stars of Pink Fashion Show being held tomorrow in the downtown Marriott, Indianapolis.

Information about the fashion show can be found online at or by calling 317-255-7465.

"Amanda and I will each have two outfits to model on the runway at the fashion show and the clothes is from The Secret Ingredient boutique in Indianapolis," Pillers said. "We’ll be wearing black pants and a black top for ours and the lady at the shop will pick out jackets for us, plus one more outfit from the store."

Pillers said she and her daughter will be walking down the runway together for a cause, representing their three years of being cancer free.

"This year they are also honoring some of the doctors that do the breast cancer surgeries," Pillers said. "So Amanda will be there representing Schneck also, so she’ll be pulling double-duty."

Pillars grew up in the town of Casey, located in central Illinois. She moved to Seymour to help with Amanda’s kids after Amanda and her husband, Andrew "Andy" Dick, found a house for her.

"I’ve been a single mom for 30 years and was a high school drop-out, and I have two daughters who are both doctors," Pillers said. "I started college when my younger daughter started kindergarten. It was a tough road. After I graduated, Amanda started and then Sara Rose started before Amanda was done."

Pillers has a master’s degree in social work degree from southern Illinois University, located in Carbondale, Illinois, which was about a 60 minute commute each way for her.

She didn’t want to move to Carbondale and unsettle the girls, but after both had graduated college and left home, she found a job and made the move to northern Illinois.

"For eleven and a half years I was the quality improvement manager for the statewide social service agency in Illinois, in a small department," Pillers said. "We made sure that everything, whether it was files or facilities, such as a childcare facility or daycare, were all in compliance with the regulations of the state."

Now, she is happy to be retired and living in Seymour, close enough to help take care of her grandchildren.

"I’m so blessed to be here and get to see the grandchildren so often. They are awesome and just seeing what they do, it’s amazing," Pillers said. "Amanda and Andy have three children: Sullivan, 10, Elin, 7, and Finnegan is 4."

Besides spending time with family, Pillers likes to sew and enjoys repurposing things, she said.

"Amanda had her wedding dress cleaned and boxed up, but their basement was flooded and it got ruined," Pillers said. "So I used the wedding dress to make a pretty Christmas tree skirt and used the veil to make a ghost decoration for Halloween."

She is constantly working on something and has recently started going to a gold fitness fusion class. She might check out a yoga studio in the near future. Her daughter, Sara, also is a certified yoga instructor and conducts a class where she works in Illinois.

"I get newsletters from Pink Ribbon Connection and learned about peer-counselor training and since I was once a social worker, I signed up and completed the training," Pillers said. "So that if someone in the county needs support, I can be matched with that person, but haven’t been matched yet."

Pillers finished her treatments in October 2016, and says she feels fine now, and just had her annual mammogram this month, which she says is always a scary time. She wants to get the word out and urges women to do self breast exams and the earlier the better.

Her daughter and both nieces were too young to have mammograms and discovered the cancer themselves.

"Every woman should make sure they do self-examinations, the earlier the better, and get mammograms at the appropriate age starting at age 40," Pillers said. "The quicker it’s caught, the better your chances are and we should all take good care of ourselves."

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Pink Ribbon Connection” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Pink Ribbon Connection is an Indianapolis-based, grassroots not-for-profit whose staff and volunteers provide breast cancer survivors with one-on-one peer counseling, as well as offer emotional support and resources to anyone touched by breast cancer. Founded in 2006, the organization serves more than 1,000 breast cancer survivors annually through patient resource packets, health fairs and information sessions.

As a 501(c)3 not-for-profit, Pink Ribbon Connection and its services are supported solely through the generosity of private donors, sponsors and more than 100 active volunteers.

Core Services


One-on-one peer counseling for breast cancer survivors               

Support underserved populations through free resources and referrals to partner social service and cancer organizations


Free wigs, hats, prostheses and bras

Links to appropriate community and disease specific services

Extensive resource library with clinical, health and wellness information

Patient resource packet

Distribution of monthly Pink Letter


Breast cancer and wellness-focused sessions and classes



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