Courtney Preusse — Breast Cancer Advocate, YSC Research Think Tank Member and Junior Researcher at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Courtney had just moved to Seattle and accepted a new job when, at 31 years old, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. With friends and family back in D.C., over 3,000 miles away, she was alone and completely unprepared to deal with her diagnosis.
At a workshop exploring reconstruction options, the only other young survivor in the room approached Courtney. As it happens, she was involved with Young Survival Coalition’s (YSC) local Seattle group. This one connection provided a pathway to the information, encouragement and resources that Courtney so desperately sought.
At her first YSC support group meeting, Courtney met other young women who could relate to her struggles, understood this new language of cancer and made her feel comfortable enough to discuss the most intimate details of the challenges she was facing.
At the end of her treatment, Courtney wanted to give back and be of service to others in the cancer community. She knew there was a lack of research on how breast cancer affected young women’s bodies and its long-term effects, and she wanted to change that.
When the opportunity for Courtney to work at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center came up, she took it. Though her job didn’t directly involve research, she saw it as a possible way to gain access to the researchers. Over time, Courtney began to reach out to those working on breast cancer issues and convinced them her patient’s perspective could help.
She noted that doctors often become so mired in the science and clinical results of the research, they often forget the larger issues pertaining to a patient’s quality of life. “It’s critical to incorporate the patients’ needs into all research, and I knew the more educated I was, the greater impact I would have,” stated Courtney. Courtney reached out to YSC in hopes she could create a stronger connection between YSC’s constituents nationwide and the cancer center.
In 2012, Courtney’s involvement with YSC expanded when she was chosen as the patient advocate chairperson for the Pregnancy and Breast Cancer working group of YSC’s Research Think Tank. The goal of this 18-month initiative is to drive real change by refocusing the research community on the tough questions that will improve the quality and length of life for young women diagnosed with breast cancer.
Courtney believes that researchers need to be reminded of the person behind the cancer, and YSC serves as a catalyst for her to do that. Whether it’s a newly diagnosed woman or someone living with metastatic disease, Courtney’s volunteer work with YSC gives them a voice.
Thank you Courtney for your persistence and determination to improve the understanding of researchers working on the science behind breast cancer and how it affects young women.