Project Pink’d founder Cynthia Sturgeon dies at 55

A look back at the life of an Omaha trailblazer.
Published: Aug. 26, 2022 at 6:59 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A look back at the life of an Omaha trailblazer.

She would never say that, but her followers do.

In 2017, Cynthia Sturgeon “We can overcome it, but it takes a community to do so.”

How do you measure a life well-lived?

For Cynthia Sturgeon, it’s the army of women she left behind - such as these three breast cancer survivors.

“I have a wonderful and great family, but no one else had been diagnosed with breast cancer,” said six-year survivor Maggie Marsh. “At the age of 32, I was feeling really lost and lonely.”

Breast cancer came knocking when Cynthia Sturgeon was 40. A crushing blow to anyone.

In 2017, Cynthia said “The survivor is not the core of who you are. It’s happened, but it’s not your core.”

But she noticed something as she stumbled through the standard line of care. A gap.

“She taught us to be hopeful and vulnerable and share our story so we can help the next person who will be walking in the journey we walked in,” said two-time, 11-year survivor Kelly Konen.

Millions of dollars raised for research by other breast cancer organizations had done wonders to advance the science - early detection and medicine.

But she felt a space of emptiness between diagnosis, and hope.

Cynthia started a non-profit, named it Project Pink’d.

The money stays local, with the goal of better options for nurturing the mind, body and spirit of breast cancer survivors.

In 2021, Cynthia “Financial assistance is the heart of what we do. To answer the question of ‘how do I live my best life in spite of the disease.’”

The annual fundraiser became a source of pride and fellowship, a way to celebrate the difference-making.

“I’ve seen it grow in the last 11-12 years from 400 guests attending the event to 1,000,” said 31-year survivor Dianna Hite. “If we had room for more, we would take on more.”

When Cynthia’s metastatic breast cancer re-surfaced six years ago, doctors told her she had two years to live.

Eventually, her husband David turned caregiver. She stretched the two years into six.

Cynthia died this week on the afternoon of her 55th birthday.

A year ago in Aug. 2021, she said this:

“I’m well past my expiration date. We joke about it, but I am. I have been given a gift that’s longer than statistics would have given me, and I’m going to keep serving as long as I possibly can. It’s what I do.”

A legacy that’s still being written by those spreading the Project Pink’d message.

Cynthia arranged a detailed succession plan to make sure her non-profit would continue to do good work.

Her celebration of life will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 7 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Hilton Downtown Omaha main ballroom.

A few days before that, a service will be held at the Shreveport, Louisiana church where she grew up.