When Theresa Larson was diagnosed with breast cancer, she thought her life was over.
She didn't see herself inspiring 8,000 readers with her story, "My Fight for Life."
And she especially never expected her face to appear on the label of a wine that will be distributed nationwide.
Four years after her diagnosis, Larson, the Lodi News-Sentinel's administration manager, is one of six breast cancer survivors throughout the United States featured on 2008 Cleavage Creek Cellars wine labels.
"We wanted to pick women who inspire other women. Theresa's a dynamite lady," said Budge Brown, the owner of Cleavage Creek Cellars, whose own wife died of breast cancer in 2005.
In October 2007, the Pope Valley winery released the first generation of Cleavage Creek wines in an attempt to raise money for breast cancer research. For every bottle sold, 10 percent goes to breast cancer research. The winery says it has already donated more than $37,000 to breast cancer causes.
There are six wines this year, including Napa Cabernet, Napa Petite Sirah, Chardonnay, Cabernet Syrah, a Secret White and a Secret Red. Larson's photo is on the Secret White bottles.
The 2008 bottles feature the photos of six survivors who proved they are an inspiration to their community and in the world of breast cancer.
Larson was chosen for her work with Pink October in Lodi, and for telling her inspirational story and personal photos in "My Fight for Life." 8,000 copies of the booklet were distributed nationwide, and Larson still receives feedback from women with cancer and their families.
"Women that have read it say, 'You're in my head. I can't express my feelings, but you did,'" Larson said.
Still, she didn't think it was enough to catapult her into nationwide exposure.
Last October, Larson got a call from her best friend, Despina Scalise. She said Larson should go online and apply to have her photo on a wine label for a winery she'd seen featured on TV.
"Just to shut her up, I went online and applied," Larson laughs.
Weeks later, Larson got a call saying the search had been narrowed down to 45 survivors. She was one of them. Shortly after that, she got another notice saying she was chosen as one of the six.
In April, Larson and the other five women went to a professional photo shoot in Palm Springs. There were lights. There were cameras. There was thick, rubbery foundation. Fake "eyelashes that weighed 10 pounds," Larson said. And Brown was there, advising the models how to hold their elbows, how to tilt their heads and just how much to smile.
"He had a vision and he knew how he wanted us to look," Larson said. "I have a newfound respect for super models."
With Pink October, Cleavage Creek and "My Fight For Life," Larson's and Cleavage Creek's biggest goal is to raise funds to fight the disease.
"I have a daughter. I have daughters-in-law. I have granddaughters. I don't want them to go through this," Larson said.
Larson went through surgery, two rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. She is now cancer free but still under the close eyes of her doctor.
Through all of this, Larson has learned a lot.
"Hair grows back. Eyelashes and eyebrows do, too," she said. "I'm at the point where I no longer think about cancer every day."
The Lodi News-Sentinel is inviting donations to reprint Larson's booklet, "My Fight for Life." If you would like to contribute, contact Theresa Larson at (209) 369-2761 or write to Lodi News-Sentinel, 125 N. Church St., Lodi, CA, 95240.