I wrote this a year ago for breast cancer awareness month but it's worth repeating. Today marks the start of breast cancer awareness month and it’s so much more than pink and just a month in October. I know the devastation and toll that cancer takes. Cancer is personal. There was not a day that went by over the past 10 years that people haven’t reached out to me to help them navigate being diagnosed with cancer. Some of my closest friends have cancer yet thankfully are doing well. My cancer journey started with 7 members of my family being diagnosed, including while I was in the womb.
Cancer struck early in my family, my maternal Grandma was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer which metastasized to her liver (after first being diagnosed at 40). She was metastatic when my mom found out she was pregnant. She was determined to see her first grandchild and held on until I was born. Doctors contributed it to pure will and meaning to live at that point because of the precarious condition she was in. It's part of the reason why I find meaning therapy to be so powerful.
This tremendous loss made my mom an orphan in her 20s as her father passed away from cancer years before that (3 months from diagnosis). My mom was once again touched by cancer when her life-long best friend died of breast cancer in her early 30s, tragically leaving behind a toddler. Promising her father that I would do everything to help, I took that toddler (now a young woman who is BRCA+) to a world renowned surgeon (who is also one of my heroes). But there’s a happy ending to that story because through SCIENCE and education, she got to rewrite her story. Unlike her mom, her toddler gets to keep her mother. That profound and moving experience started my advocacy in BRCA and becoming a member and active participant in the Young Leadership Council of the Basser Center for BRCA at Penn Medicine.
But the impetus of cancer advocacy was when 10 years ago, I had 24 hours to get my dad to the world's expert (who was at Sloan Kettering at the time) in order to save his life when he was diagnosed with a rare cancer and hemorrhaging to death. Miraculously, he was able to do a surgery that no one else in the world could, and my dad has been NED since. That harrowing experience made me a fierce advocate because I knew how to help and never wanted anyone else to be in that terrifying position. I knew that if I could coach people through and get them to the brilliant, heroic physician-scientists who spend 24/7, 365 days/year researching, treating and curing cancer, they too could have the chance of a miracle, like my dad. It also drove my participation in Cycle for Survival because without research funding, there are no cures.
I never knew my maternal grandparents but I fight for them. I fight for my five other family members including my mom (who two years ago was diagnosed with two different cancers). And I am so blessed to have had the privilege of advocating, coaching, educating and guiding hundreds of patients this past decade. Getting to know incredible advocates, physician-scientists and health professionals showed me that although we can't all cure cancer, each of us can use our experience and strengths to help others.
So, if you need me, I am here!️ Together we fight! F CANCER!