Chocolate covered bugs don’t bite
By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Who ever thought splurging on a box of chocolates could make you feel so good?
Cassopolis native Linda Herter is the president and "chief lady bug" of the recently formed Pink Lady Bug Chocolates, a company that was created to help fight breast cancer.
The chocolates made their debut this past October and 50 percent of the proceeds are going toward funding mammograms for women who cannot afford them and for research to help find a cure.
Herter, a breast cancer survivor, spoke at a local breast cancer survivors support group at the First Baptist Church of Niles on Wednesday afternoon.
She told her story to a group of 12 local breast cancer survivors.
Herter said this was the first time she had spoken to a support group and found it inspiring to be around so many survivors.
She began by telling the audience how great life was in 2000. She had a great new man in her life (now her husband), a new house, a new car and had just got a job that nearly doubled her salary.
In August of 2000, she went to the doctor for a routine mammogram.
She was shocked when the doctor told her to get dressed and have a seat in the hallway.
She was with her mother five years earlier when she was diagnosed with breast cancer under the exact same circumstances.
They told her a biopsy was needed for an area of concern that may be a small cancer.
The news got worse.
After a biopsy and lumpectomy, doctors realized that it was an aggressive cancer that did not show up on the mammogram. It had spread to her lymph nodes and chest wall.
She immediately began aggressive chemotherapy.
One day following a treatment, Herter wasn't feeling well. While she was trying to relax in one of the recliners in the office, she overheard the story of a 32-year-old single mother of three children who had recently died from breast cancer.
The woman had felt a lump, but ignored it because she had no insurance and had no way of paying for a mammogram. The lump got larger and larger until she could no longer ignore it.
Family forced her to go to a doctor, where she discovered she had stage four cancer. She died a few months later.
Herter was deeply affected by the story and began to cry.
She realized that she could have easily been in the same position as this unfortunate woman.
She began to try to think of ways that she could make a difference.
The chemotherapy treatments caused her to feel sick and lose her appetite, but she never lost her love of chocolate. It was one of the few things that could make her happy.
She eventually decided to develop a chocolate that would help to lift women's spirits and also help to prevent cancer.
The result was Pink Lady Bug Designs.
With the help of DeBrand Chocolates in Fort Wayne, Ind., the chocolates became a reality.
She said the name, Pink Lady Bug, came to her as a sign from something that was much bigger than her.
She knew that she wanted to use "pink" because of the color's association with the breast cancer ribbon, but struggled to come up with a full name.
One day, Herter was not feeling well because of chemotherapy, when she got a call from her fiance urging her to come to his office.
When she got there, he opened his hand revealing something he had just found on his desk, a pink ladybug.
The fact that it was a cold January day, he was surprised to find a ladybug. The fact that it was a bright pink ladybug led them to believe this was meant to be.
He also showed her that he had looked up pink ladybugs on his computer and found they were a symbol of rebirth.
It was perfect.
She separated the word lady from ladybug to give focus to women and the name was born.
Since the company's inception in October, they have been getting nationwide attention.
Her candy was featured as the chocolate of the month in the October issue of O, Oprah Winfrey's magazine.
Herter said the recognition has caused the company to receive orders from places such as Canada and Australia.
The chocolates were also featured at a Breast Cancer Research Foundation event at the Mall of America in Minnesota.
Herter has also helped to start a luncheon that raises money through donations.
The event was sponsored by the St. Joseph Medical Center and has now become an annual event for them.
The last luncheon was attended by more than 900 people and raised more than $100,000 for women in need.
She would eventually like to see these types of fundraisers all across the country.
Herter now looks at her bout with cancer as a positive experience.