Lisa Frank — YSC Founding Member, Board President and YSC Tour de Pink® Co-Founder
It was 1998; I was 36 and focused on my career as a lawyer. I was enjoying time with friends and having fun dating when I was diagnosed with stage I breast cancer. There was a history of cancer in my family but not breast cancer. Cancer was the last thing on my mind. I was living a busy life and had no plans of stopping.
After my lumpectomy, I went through chemotherapy and radiation and took Tamoxifen. I was so fortunate to have the love and support of my family and friends who were with me every step of the way.
By 2004, I was back to living my life and thought my cancer journey was over. On August 31, I felt something in the scar tissue on my left breast and was re-diagnosed — this time with stage II breast cancer.
I didn’t want to feel like I would always have this weight on my shoulders worrying when the cancer would show up in the other breast, so I opted for a bilateral (double) mastectomy. I was in a relationship with a wonderful man, and my breasts were not going to define me. Cancer wasn’t going to win.
Since the beginning, I was part of Young Survival Coalition (YSC) and connected with other young women who faced breast cancer. With each diagnosis I called my YSC support network to get help. I had questions and needed all the information I could get about treatment and reconstruction options. I could be open and honest with this group without fear of scaring them or sanitizing my concerns.
When I completed surgery for my mastectomy and began to heal, I started to feel like myself again. Since 1994 I had been cycling and had even completed numerous AIDS multi-day charity bike rides. After my recurrence in 2004, I was mostly off my bike, but I wanted to get back on it.
In 2004, a fellow YSC volunteer, who was himself an avid cyclist and racer, and I created the idea of a long distance bike ride to raise money to support YSC and raise awareness that young women can get breast cancer. There weren’t any official bike rides supporting breast cancer, and we saw this as a great opportunity to give back and have a great adventure together. I didn’t ride the first year because I was still recovering, but I organized the fundraising and ride logistics.
This ride became the annual YSC Tour de Pink East Coast ride. To date, YSC Tour de Pink has generated more than $6 million to support young women affected by breast cancer and consists of three outdoor bike rides, with indoor events around the country.
In 2011, as I was about to become YSC’s Board president I found out my breast cancer had returned. This time it spread to my parotid gland, spine, lower back and sacrum. I was 49 and facing breast cancer again. But, like before, I knew I would win this round and got right down to doing just that!
I recently celebrated my 51st birthday and am so proud of that. Every day I wake up and say, “I will fight this. I will live and live well for a long time.” I look forward to telling everyone who asks how old I am. Every birthday is a good one because not having a birthday, well, I don’t consider that an option.