Survivor Advocates Can Make A Difference

Many people think that’s a very odd thing to say, but I believe it with all my heart and soul. After being diagnosed with breast cancer and having a mastectomy in 1996, I found a new direction in my life.

I made a promise to God, that if He got me through this, I would do everything I could to help other women and the people who love them deal with this disease; that I would raise all the money that I could to help those who are uninsured or underinsured get the screening, diagnosis and treatments that they need and to fund the research necessary to find the cures; and that I would talk with anyone who would listen about the key to surviving this disease  as“early detection”.

Two weeks after my mastectomy, I was asked to talk with a friend who had just received her breast cancer diagnosis and I knew that this was what I was supposed to do with my life. I’ve worked with hundreds of women and their families and friends. I have raised millions of dollars in event sponsorships that fund education, screening, treatment and research. I’ve personally raised over $500,000 in pledge money as I participated in events like the Race for the Cure, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, and the Breast Cancer 3Day. And, I’ve given presentations at many conferences, events and news conferences.

But we still don’t have a cure; many women are choosing between rent and chemotherapy because they don’t have insurance; and because they don’t have enough insurance, many are going without the yearly mammograms and exams by a health professional that insure early detection and survival.

25,360 women in California will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 and 4,220 will die. 171,330 cases of all cancers will be diagnosed in California in 2013. That’s more than 10% of all cancer diagnoses in the United States. Unfortunately, statistics show that nearly one-third of these people will die, many from aggressive disease or late diagnosis. I have been blessed with opportunities to learn more about cancer so that I can become a better advocate. We need to learn the science, in lay terms, from screening, to diagnosis, to treatment, and those situations that occur when treatment fails. There is so much that is needed to be studied so that we are equipped to go after the additional money that is needed for research.

Survivor advocates can make a difference to other cancer patients by advocating for personalized medicine, clinical trials, educating others and helping to break down regulatory barriers. Fundraisers, researchers and those in the medical community should team up with us to make all of our work more effective. As we form these teams to become more effective in our work, I can continue to make good on those promises I made nearly 17 years ago. I’ll still keep my promises, but the work of many is so much better than the work of one!