Your Best Lover is…YOU!

light heartIt’s February and the subject is love.  We’re awash in Hallmark moments about romance, hearts and flowers and little candy kisses with sweet messages. Let’s take a deeper look at love, at self-love.

The truth is that love begins and ends with your relationship with yourself. You are your primary partner and you are your lifetime lover. How you feel about you determines how you receive and give love. Sometimes we think that we’ll love ourselves when we know others love us. If we don’t feel loved, it’s easy to think that we’re unlovable and that only love from others can fill that emptiness. This is backwards. How we feel about ourselves is what we transmit to the world. When you are in love with you and loving you, you radiate love and it’s irresistible. You are irresistible.

For the month of February, my invitation is to love yourself fully, to believe that you are adorable, lovable, sexy and irresistible. Imagine what your life would be like if you felt totally loved all the time? This is the gift I’m inviting you to give to yourself. After all, who else knows you so well and knows how you want to receive love?

Each day this month, explore ways to love yourself. Open your heart to yourself the way you would to the one/s you love most. Be generous with your love because you deserve to be adored. Remember what it feels like to be in love and all you can think about is your sweetie? Bring that attitude and energy to you. At first this may feel silly or awkward. But stick with it and be creative, and you may find a surprise at the end of the month.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Write yourself a love letter. Tell yourself all the things you appreciate and love about yourself. Write it on beautiful stationery or a card and mail it. Hint: you can do this more than once and perhaps you’ll send you a Valentine.

 – Take yourself out on a date. Dress up so that you feel beautiful and go out for coffee, a movie, dinner or for a walk in a beautiful place.

 – Meditate on love. What does love mean to you? How do you know when you are loved? How can you be more loving with yourself? Open to receive what comes to you as you sit and contemplate these questions and any others that inspire you.

 – Buy yourself some gorgeous flowers, or send them to yourself. Include a love note with the flowers and when you look at them, remember how much you love yourself.

 – Each time you see your face in a mirror, look into your eyes and say, “I love you” out loud. Say it like you mean it.

 – Stroke yourself from head to toe with tenderness and love.

 – Keep a love journal. Write daily about your exploration for that day ~ what you did, how it felt and what you’re learning about loving yourself. Keep the journal in a special place and read it often to remind you of your love for yourself.


small logoAbout Barbara Musser

Barbara, founder and CEO of Sexy After Cancer, is the author of Sexy After Cancer ~ Meeting Your Inner Aphrodite on the Breast Cancer Journey. A 26-year breast cancer survivor, speaker and educator, she teaches classes and retreats for women and couples about cancer, love, intimacy and sexuality.


Barbara will be speaking at the YSC Summit on Saturday during General Session 1 on Sex and Intimacy along with other experts. To learn more about this session and others, visit



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Heart Health & You: Before, During & After Treatment

go-red-american-heart-associationFebruary is Heart Disease Awareness Month and today is “Go Red Day” where everyone wears red to raise awareness of heart disease and donate to “Go Red for Women,” which supports educational programming on heart disease.


Why should we, as breast cancer patients or survivors, worry about our heart?
Well, unfortunately there are lots of reasons. First, some of the treatments and chemotherapies we may have taken can cause heart damage. These include (among others) Adriamycin, Herceptin and radiation on the left side of the body. In addition, if you were premenopausal before treatment and become postmenopausal during or after, that can also affect your heart. The risk of heart disease increases in postmenopausal women, with the decline of estrogen levels possibly playing a role.

What Can You Do to be Proactive?
If you’re in active treatment that could possibly damage your heart, your doctor will likely check your heart function to ensure that there are no problems. This can include an EKG or MUGA scan. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctors about how certain treatments may impact the rest of your body, including your heart. This is especially important if you already have heart problems or a family history of heart disease.

shutterstock_111914588If your treatment is complete, what can you do to take care of your heart? First, it is very important that all your physicians, including your family or primary care physician, be aware of your complete medical history including your breast cancer treatments. This way, they can be aware of what potential medical issues to monitor including your heart. Second, take care of yourself and your heart. If you are smoking, stop. Maintain a healthy diet, keep a check on your blood pressure and cholesterol, exercise and take steps to reduce stress.

What are Signs and Symptoms of Heart Problems?
These can include puffiness in hands and feet (due to retaining of fluid), dizziness or weakness, shortness of breath, coughing, and racing or irregular heartbeat. If you ever have any concerns or think you may be having a heart attack, call your doctor or 911 immediately.

Taking charge of your health is one way to be empowered while dealing with the challenges of a breast cancer diagnosis. And remember – YOU are your own best health advocate!

For more information on heart health, visit: – Heart Problems – Take Heart, Be Smart: Before, During & After Treatment – National Wear Red Day, 2/5/16 – Menopause and Heart Disease




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Categories: Taking my Body Back

Takeaways from 2015 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium


Each December, several YSC staff members travel to San Antonio, Texas, for the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS).
We interviewed Michelle Esser, YSC’s Senior Program Manager for Research and Advocacy, about why YSC makes it a priority to attend this conference.


Why is SABCS such aimportant conference to attend?

SABCS is the world’s largest conference devoted exclusively to breast cancer. The conference focuses on research news and updates – including promising new potential treatments, less invasive or toxic treatments, managing side effects, etc. It is important for YSC to learn about updates that we should share with our constituents, and to remind doctors that breast cancer does affect young women.

What does YSC do there?

We divide and conquer! YSC typically has a space in the exhibit hall where staff shares information about our services and resources. Other staff  meet in-person with physicians, pharmaceutical companies, researchers, and partner nonprofits. We also have staff who attend the educational sessions, and YSC often displays posters that share our work and survey data.

Why did you record videos at the meeting?

At 2014’s SABCS, I knew that the results of the SOFT/TEXT trials (which examined whether ovarian suppression should be used in young women diagnosed with breast cancer) were being released at SABCS and that this information could change recommendations for young women with hormone-receptor positive breast cancer. I wanted to share this information as soon as it was available, so I proposed a “reporting live from San Antonio” video. The idea expanded and we also interviewed advocates, researchers, etc.  Much to our delight, the videos were well-received.  At times, we are literally walking up to a researcher/doctor and asking them on-the-spot to discuss their research. This year, I was fortunate to have YSC RISE Legacy advocate Tracy Leduc working with me to create these videos.

Dr. Sylvia Adams

Dr. Sylvia Adams

Any surprises at the meeting?

Yes! Tracy and I attended an early-morning poster session and noticed a large crowd jostling to get a look at one of the posters. When we were finally close enough to see what was going on, we saw that the poster was about a potential new treatment for metastatic triple negative breast cancer. Since triple negative breast cancer disproportionately affects young women, we were very excited to see the results and learn of a Phase III clinical trial now enrolling. We are grateful Dr. Sylvia Adams took the time to speak with us.

Any disappointments?

Yes. I was disappointed that there were only a couple presentations in the general session that focused on young or premenopausal women.  And one headline-making presentation, “Chemotherapy Showed No Benefit Against Luminal A Breast Tumors,“ was based on older data that examined chemotherapy regimens not used today. So, while it is good information to know and discuss with your physician, I don’t know how much it will truly change practice. There were a significant number of posters pertinent to young women, but it would have been great to see at least some of these posters discussed in the general sessions.

Can survivors and advocates attend?

Yes. There are reduced registration prices for advocates and the Alamo Breast Cancer Foundation (ABCF) hosts nightly “Mentor Hot Topic” sessions, where doctors summarize the biggest news of the day. In addition, ABCF offers scholarships for advocates to attend SABCS. Applications and criteria can be found here. That said, this is a scientific meeting. Some background knowledge on the science of breast cancer is helpful (and required for the Alamo scholarship).

A favorite session to attend?

One of my favorites is the case study panels. There are two sessions in which physicians discuss their “tough” cases and seek input from a panel of prestigious doctors. The panel also includes one advocate to represent the patient perspective. (I sat on the panel in 2013 and I can tell you it is not an easy job!) The panel I attended this year included advocate Christine Benjamin of SHARE. She did an awesome job and provided one of my meeting highlights: One of the doctors said that a patient had “failed” the medication. Advocates in the audience groaned and Christine quickly stepped in with a gentle reminder that patients don’t “fail;” it is the medication that fails. Another interesting aspect of this session was that I would estimate 80% of the cases discussed pertained to young women. Check out our interview with Christine here.

Christine Benjamin of SHARE

Christine Benjamin of SHARE speaking with YSC RISE Legacy advocate Tracy Leduc

What is your biggest takeaway from the meeting?

Hope. There are a lot of super-smart, passionate people working on finding ways to better treat and hopefully cure breast cancer. Is the system perfect and is it moving as quickly as we would like? No. But, there is an energy at this meeting that is contagious and lot of physicians who care deeply for their patients. That gives me hope for the future.

You can find all of the video updates from the 2015 SABCS here. A few of our favorites include Lisa Rezende discussing XRAYS Initiative, Dr. Matthew Goetz of the Mayo Clinic speaking with us about endocrine therapy, and Dr. Olivia Pagani on the POSITIVE Trial, which is recruiting women in early stages of breast cancer who want to stop endocrine treatment to become pregnant.



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Get to Know Your Inner Creative Goddess

Yep, she’s in there and it’s time for a re-introduction…

Expressive ArtsA breast cancer diagnosis often creates a mix of emotions for the person diagnosed with cancer and co-survivors. Those emotions can feel hard to talk about and at times, it can be difficult to even figure how what you are feeling. One proven way to cope after a breast cancer diagnosis is through the use of expressive arts, which can include visual, dance/movement, music, drama/theater, and writing/poetry. Unlike traditional art making, in expressive arts, the process of creation is emphasized, not the final product.

Expressive, or creative arts, can be a way to tap into your feelings and offers a way to express yourself, to pass time while waiting for a medical visit or to help you combat scanxiety. Getting creative or crafty is an opportunity for you to connect with yourself, enjoy some quiet time and may even help you discover new parts of yourself.

Research proven benefits of expressive arts:

 – Greater connections to self-understanding

 – Increased relaxation

 – Pain reduction

 – Alleviation of stress and anxiety

 – Distraction from the medical environment

 – Can help individuals to communicate emotions that may be difficult to verbally articulate

 – Patients feel more empowered, hopeful, and resilient throughout the process of cancer care


Everyone is creative – yes, even you!
Step 1: Repeat after me, “I am creative.”
Step 2: Breathe
Step 3: Get started. It doesn’t matter how you start or where you start, just start. Choose your creative medium and have fun!
Step 4: Repeat Step 1 and Step 2 as often as needed to keep you creating.

Take photos

Adult coloring books, create a collage on poster board, make your own gratitude box, take a photography walk-about in your town, make handmade cards, paint on canvas, dance to music or write a short story.





 – Paint/Draw/Dance/Sing/Photograph as if you’ll burn it.Getting Artsy

 – Keep it Simple.

 – Don’t be afraid to get messy.

 – Take your creative supplies to medical appointments, or just keep them easily accessible so you can pull them out often.

 – Check your inner art critic at the door.

 – Get curious – What feels good? What feels fun? There is no right or wrong way to express yourself creatively.

 – Are there expressive arts opportunities in your area? Check out a local craft store for supplies, they may even have workshops, some of which may be free of charge.

 – Invite some friends to a Creativity Night. Ask each person to bring a few supplies and an open mind. Crank up music, share supplies and create away…

Hope this helps to inspire you!  Send us pictures or stories about your creative adventure to

About Ali Schaffer, LCSW

Ali is the Program Manager of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer (VICC) Center Patient and Family Resource Center. In this role, she oversees the management of the Resource Center and collaborates with medical professionals and local and national organizations to plan and implement educational programs for people impacted by cancer.

Ali is hosting a wellness activity on Art as Expression at the upcoming YSC Summit.
Join us in Atlanta, GA on March 11 to 13 for her awesome workshop and other inspiring, informational sessions and workshops throughout the weekend. Register today.





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Remembering Diana Di Mare (1968-2016)

Diana enjoying her Tour de Pink journey.

Diana enjoying her Tour de Pink journey.

I find myself at a loss for words. YSC and the world has lost another courageous, kind and beautiful young woman. Diana Di Mare was one-of-a-kind. In recent days there have been hundreds of posts about her passing and so many recurring themes by all who mourn her loss–her smile, her fight, her positive attitude and her love of life that was felt by everyone in her presence.

Diana gave so much of herself to YSC and fellow young survivors in New Jersey as the chair of the Northern NJ Affiliate and as chair of the local In Living Pink events. She found opportunities in everything. It is no surprise Tour de Pink was another opportunity for greatness. She rode in Tour de Pink for seven years, often participating in multiple rides each year. She deepened relationships with those in her YSC family throughout each of the three-day journeys.

Diana understood the power of community and brought so many friends, family and colleagues into the YSC fold. She wanted everyone she interacted with to know about her journey, not because she wanted sympathy, but because she knew there were young women who needed each other. She knew there was action to be taken in the young adult breast cancer community. Diana connected people to each other and no one did it better. She will be sorely missed, and YSC is forever grateful that Diana chose us for so many years.




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YSC is creating the Next Generation of Young, Educated Breast Cancer Advocates





This is big news….. YSC has just selected 10 exceptional women who will become the next generation of breast cancer advocates in the United States.

Everyone knows that YSC has been the voice for young women affected by breast cancer since its inception in 1998, but did you know that YSC has also led the way in advocacy for breast cancer in young women?

I believe that the interests of young women need to be represented in the nationwide conversation about breast cancer – at scientific conferences, legislative hearings and on research grants, among others.

I believe that YSC must ‘have a seat at the table’ in every breast cancer conversation in order to ensure that the unique voice of young women is being heard.

I also believe that YSC has the sole responsibility to create this next generation of advocates. No one else can do this…. It has to be us.

I am proud to announce that YSC has created a NEW exclusive program called
‘RISE’ – Respected Influencers through Science and Education. This program is for volunteer advocates that YSC will train in all aspects of breast cancer, including science, research, advocacy and policy…. so they can sit at those ‘tables’ and ensure the voice of young women is always being heard.

Each RISE advocate selected for the program will serve a three-year commitment. Every year, a new class of 10 new participants will be selected to participate in the program. YSC plans to graduate 40 leaders at the end of six years, resulting in a new generation of educated, smart, young women to join the scientific conversations that are happening between researches, doctors and the government.

Once trained, the RISE advocates will be qualified to speak knowledgeably and credibly on behalf of YSC and other young survivors. This is vitally important, because breast cancer in young women is not simply a disease diagnosed at a young age; it has biological characteristics and treatment concerns that differ from diagnosis in post-menopausal women.

Please join me in welcoming the very first YSC RISE class of 10 advocates!!!

RISE Advocates 1

RISE Advocates 2

RISE Advocates 3




Read their bios and learn more about the Rise program.






YSC is an organization that changes the lives of young women diagnosed with breast cancer across the United States every day. And this is just another example of our leadership, dedication and commitment to young women who have been affected by this disease. #feelingproud

Did you know these facts about YSC and its history with advocacy?

 – YSC held its first Medical Research Symposium in 2001 and initiated research on breast cancer in young women through partnerships soon after.

 – In 2002, a Wall Street Journal article credited YSC as a major catalyst for changing the landscape of breast cancer research.

 – YSC has published numerous position papers on controversial topics, including the recent ACS Screening Guideline Updates.

 – After an exhaustive 18-month collaboration with advocates, leading researchers and clinicians, YSC released its “Research Agenda” in May 2014, listing the top research priorities. The agenda includes research priorities in the areas of metastasis, treatment, pregnancy and fertility, quality of life and survivorship, and risk factors. View the executive summary and recommended priorities at




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Ready for a Moonshot to End Cancer

Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden do a photo line at a Breast Cancer Awareness month reception, in the library at the Naval Observatory Residence, in Washington, D.C., October 24, 2012. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

YSC CEO Jennifer Merschdorf and former YSC President of the Board Lisa Frank with Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden at their home in 2012.

It is not every day that the President of the United States says he wants to end cancer once and for all.

And it is certainly not every day that the President talks about ending cancer at a State of the Union address.

But it actually happened this week, and the President clearly appointed the right man, Vice President Joe Biden.

I loved what Judy Salerno, CEO of Komen stated about this news in the Huffington Post: “President Obama’s announcement of a cancer “Moonshot” – with Vice President Joe Biden at the controls – is sending positive shock-waves through the cancer community today. It is the right initiative, at the right time, with the right leader – and a test of our collective will to confront a disease that affects every American, directly or indirectly, over the course of our lifetimes.”

She is totally right. It is the right time and he is the right leader.

However as a member of the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC), I feel it is important to remind us that NBCC has been calling for this bold action for some time now with its 2020Deadline campaign. Maybe now with this united national movement under Biden’s leadership it will actually happen!

OK – so what the heck is all this moonshot talk about anyway? According to Biden’s blog – this is what it actually means:

 – The Federal government will do everything it possibly can — through funding, targeted incentives, and increased private-sector coordination — to support research and enable progress.

 – We’ll encourage leading cancer centers to reach unprecedented levels of cooperation, so we can learn more about this terrible disease and how to stop it in its tracks.

 – Data and technology innovators can play a role in revolutionizing how medical and research data is shared and used to reach new breakthroughs.

 – We will help the oncology community improve communication with doctors across the United States and around the world, so the same care provided to patients at the world’s best cancer centers is available to everyone who needs it.

 – And we will ensure that the patient community is heard — so patients and their families are treated as partners in care, with access to their own data and the opportunity to contribute to research.

Giant #hellacool high five to Biden from me. Especially the part about the voices of the patient community being heard…. Yes!

While most of the cancer community is celebrating the commitment from the government, there are a few concerned voices out there. Take the article published by Time Magazine Why Curing Cancer Is Not a ‘Moonshot’ – where they state: “There is nothing wrong with calling for a national commitment to do something that’s very hard and, often, very expensive ….. Obama—and Nixon before him—deserve credit for throwing down that challenge flag against cancer. But this moon is actually many moons. Expecting a single, final victory will only make us fail to notice the smaller, more incremental ones when they come.”

While people debate if curing cancer is possible or not, YSC will continue to focus on supporting the one quarter million young women in the United States who were diagnosed before their 41st birthday – that is our job.

However, between you and me, there is nothing that would make me happier than for YSC to go out of business because there was no more cancer.

So Vice President Biden, YSC commends, applauds and fully supports you and your work…. and God Speed.



Vice President Biden has asked to hear from those impacted by cancer. We encourage you to share your stories with him and include this paragraph at the beginning:

Young women can and do get breast cancer. This year, nearly 13,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer before their 41st birthday. And more than 1,000 women under age 40 will die from breast cancer. These women leave behind young children, family and friends to face life without them. I volunteer for Young Survival Coalition (YSC), which is dedicated to supporting and advocating for young women affected by breast cancer. I have had to say goodbye to too many friends. It is time to find a way to prevent cancer from developing and prevent it from spreading in those who have already been diagnosed.



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Mountains, Trees and Little Green Peas

Here is some great advice on starting the new year right- thanks to Dacia Breeden, RD who is a featured speaker at YSC’s upcoming Regional Symposium in Jackson, MS. Join us in Jackson on January 23 for her awesome session on nutrition after a breast cancer diagnosis, an interactive cooking demo and a day filled with education and connection! Register today.

When I was a kid, one of the most common vegetables my mom cooked was green peas. I was NOT a fan. I would sometimes move all my little green peas around, trying to hide them under my mashed potatoes, hoping my mom would believe I ate them or at least some of them, so I could have my chocolate chip cookies for dessert. Of course, she would discover my little green pea tricks and then encourage me by saying, “just taste and see…you never know, you might actually like them!”

Sometimes, I still feel like that little kid, preferring my chocolate chip cookies to my green peas. I always remember something my mom did, though, which has helped me to choose the healthy foods first. See, as a young child, I loved drawing; especially landscapes with mountains and trees and a pretty sunset. One night during supper, when I was trying to rearrange my green peas again, Mom looked at me with a smile and told me something I’ll never forget. “Those are not really green peas,” she whispered. “They’re actually little green trees that would love to sit on the peak of your mountain of mashed potatoes. And look here! We can add a little sunset!” she smiled with her arm reached over, as she dropped a dollop of butter onto those tall fluffy mountains. And so it was accomplished…the moment I began to love those little green peas. In fact, I no longer wanted to eat my potatoes without my little green trees! She had used my love of art to help me see food in a different light, like a canvas, if you will.

Little Green Trees

My little green trees on my mountain.

A change in perspective, a change in the way I saw my food is what I experienced that day so long ago. I think that is what often times is required of us when we are trying to make a change, any change; but especially, when it comes to the food choices we make. We just need a reminder of what food was really designed to be. See, most of the time, we are making food choices solely based on our taste preferences, but when faced with a health crisis we must shift our perspective to a different facet of food, the beautiful healing power that it can provide to our bodies.

So I end with one question for you to ask yourself before taking that next bite, “Is this food giving to or taking away from my fight with cancer?” I would dare to say we’d all take a second helping of those little green trees. Wouldn’t you?

Just taste and see! Here are 5 cancer fighting foods to try for the New Year.

Blueberries: Add to smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, muffins or pancakes.

– Broccoli Sprouts: Add to sandwiches, salads, or soups.

– Mushrooms: Add to salads, scrambled eggs, stews, or stir-fries.

– Pomegranates: Add as a garnish for salads.  Add the juice to smoothies or iced tea.

– Walnuts: Toss them into a salad. Add to your favorite baking recipe.

For more healthy cooking ideas, visit



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YSC Board of Directors Welcomes 2 New Members in 2016!

I am pleased to announce that as of January 1, 2016, YSC has two new exceptional Board Members: Pablo Colon and Shauna Martin.

These incredible individuals come to the YSC Board of Directors with their own stories about breast cancer, and both are committed to helping YSC reach our growth goals in the coming years.

I would like to introduce you to both of them:

Pablo Colon
Pablo Colon:
Pablo is strongly connected to the YSC family in two ways. First, he was actively involved in the online YSC community boards while his then girlfriend (now wife) Erin went through her breast cancer diagnosis in 2009. Pablo invested his time and boundless energy in the YSC community boards to help gain as much knowledge as he possibly could to support Erin through her journey.

As Erin healed, Pablo began looking for a way to give back to YSC, and he discovered the YSC Tour de Pink (TdP). Pablo has become a leader of the TdP community as captain of the powerhouse team “I ride 4 her.” His incredible team raised over $100K in 2015 alone! Read more about Pablo from his guest blog last year.

Pablo’s commitment to helping others extends beyond YSC to the community in general.  He is a board member of United Way of Coastal Fairfield County and the Bridgeport YMCA. In his role as EVP & COO of Radio Cumbre Broadcasting, a family-owned Spanish radio station, he uses the station’s outreach to the Hispanic population to bring news and resources to their listeners.

Pablo and Erin live in East Norwalk, Conn., with their beautiful three-year-old daughter, Dalia.

I am thrilled to have a co-survivor joining the Board of Directors as we continue building our co-survivor support programs.

Shauna Martin

Shauna Martin:
In 2005, Shauna was diagnosed with breast cancer. With a young family to care for, she turned to daily green juicing to recover from the trauma of multiple surgeries and the toxic effects of chemotherapy. After discovering its life-restoring power, she made it her mission to get a green juice into the hands of as many other people as possible, so they can thrive as she has.

Founding Drink Daily Greens LLC in 2012, Shauna now works to accomplish this mission through crafting delicious new recipes and selling her Daily Greens in retail outlets nationwide.

Shauna has served on the Board of the Breast Cancer Resource Centers of Texas for the past nine years. She is also a founding member of the Pink Ribbon Cowgirls, a social network of young breast cancer survivors, and she is a frequent speaker and chair of the organization’s breast cancer fundraising awards.

Shauna’s story has appeared nationally on MSNBC News Nation with Tameron Hall, Fox News, Fox Small Business Center and CNBC. She has also appeared in numerous national publications, including Huffington Post Business, Family Circle, InStyle, Glamour, Self, Shape, Redbook and Cooking Light.

Along with her sister (also a young breast cancer survivor), Shauna attended the early YSC C4YW conferences and has found tremendous support at the events during the years. Today, Shauna lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband Kirk and their 11-year-old son, Cooper.

Having Shauna join the YSC Board of Directors is a game changer for us. I know her business success, dedication and impressive vision will help young women with breast cancer everywhere.


Serving as a board member for a non-profit is one of the most challenging and rewarding volunteer experiences a person can have. Both of these amazing people have demonstrated extreme commitment to young women diagnosed with breast cancer and I know are going to be #YSCAwesome!

To see a list of the entire YSC Board of Directors, click here.



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Celebrating My Miracles

My sister Tracy and I out in NYC in 2008. This was the best night ever!!!

When I was 20 years old, my sister Tracy was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 32. Before that day, I thought only older women got breast cancer. It was incomprehensible to me that my vibrant sister, mom to a one-year-old son, could have it. Our family rallied around Tracy, as did her Young Survival Coalition (YSC) sisters. Ten months after she completed her treatments, we received the devastating news that Tracy’s cancer had come back – and she had stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.

Eight years after my sister’s diagnosis, my two other sisters and I decided to undergo genetic testing to see if we were at high risk for developing breast cancer. Thankfully, my sisters were not, but I found out that I was BRCA1 positive. I had an 87% chance of developing breast cancer in my lifetime!

I had to make some tough choices but because of my connection to YSC, I knew that I had options and that I had someplace to turn for information, guidance, hope and friendship. A few months later, I decided to have a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. While undergoing tests and preparing for my surgery, I learned the shocking news that not only was I BRCA1 positive, but I already had breast cancer!

Though I had already decided to have the mastectomy, I hadn’t planned on undergoing chemotherapy or having treatments that could impact my fertility. Meanwhile, Tracy’s condition was worsening. Our families – biological and YSC – were by my side in New York as I recovered from surgery and, at the same time, by Tracy’s bedside in New Jersey before she passed away at age 41.

The morning of Tracy’s wake, I was scheduled to have my eggs harvested, a fertility option introduced to me by YSC. I knew Tracy would want me to do whatever I could to preserve my chances of having a baby, so I kept my appointment. That morning, I had seven eggs retrieved. That afternoon, I delivered Tracy’s eulogy. It was one of the hardest days of my life, but I channeled strength from her.

The road back from the death of my sister and my diagnosis and treatment has not been easy.  During treatment, my boyfriend found it difficult to cope with my illness and we realized we had vastly different life goals, so our relationship ended and I found myself struggling to stay positive.

Then I was reminded that I had promised a date to the younger brother of a close friend. He had reached out to offer support during my cancer diagnosis, and I was surprised to learn from his mother and sister that he had a crush on me. I was hesitant to go on a date with Kevin, as I was 30 and he was 23. He was just starting his career and life and I was dealing with the loss of my sister, a breakup and CANCER! I weighed 95 pounds, had no hair and my skin was a lovely shade of yellow. What could he possibly see in me and why would he want to get involved with me and all my baggage?

We went to dinner and he wouldn’t stop staring at me. I had chemo the day before, so I was wondering if I was looking extra frail or if my wig was crooked. When I asked, he said, “You’re beautiful! I can’t believe you’re actually here with me!” I decided to lay it all on the line by telling him I wanted marriage, a family and a possible career change, and if he wasn’t ready for these types of things, then we should enjoy the rest of the night and continue our friendship.

Two years later, as I crossed the finish line of my second YSC Tour de Pink, Kevin was waiting for me on bended knee with a beautiful ring, a question and the promise of forever. We were married on June 24, 2012 on a beautiful summer day. EVERYTHING about that day was perfect. We came into our marriage with our eyes wide open and absolutely in love with one another.

Soon after, we tried to start a family, knowing it was going to be hard for us. A year later, we went to my fertility doctor. Another six months of hormone treatments ended in the loss of a fertilized egg, so Kevin and I decided we would use the eggs I had frozen five years earlier.

As I was preparing my body for the egg implantation, I laid in the procedure room with the nurse who originally helped retrieve my eggs. She said “Jamie, I’m so happy I can be here with you today. I know your sister is here with us and we’re all praying for you.”

Out of the seven eggs frozen, only two survived thawing and we were encouraged to use both for the best bet of at least one healthy pregnancy. After two long weeks, Kevin and I headed for a blood test to determine if I was pregnant. A voicemail from the doctor’s office was waiting when we got home. “Congratulations Jamie, you’re pregnant and your HCG hormone level is really high. It’s a healthy pregnancy!” A few weeks later, during an ultrasound, we saw the soft flickers of two hearts beating. I was truly pregnant with two miracles.

We were so happy to learn we were having two little girls, but I also remember lying in bed one night and crying. I was worried that I may have passed along my BRCA gene mutation. Kevin hugged me tight and reminded me that things would be different with our girls. We’re educated about the gene and what it means. Also, medical advances are happening daily. When the time comes, they’ll know all of their options and Kevin and I will be there with them every step of the way.

I continued to ride my bike through the pregnancy, even riding in the 2014 Tour de Pink while seven months pregnant. But a month later, I was placed on bed rest. On November 5, Teresa (Tess) Pleva Nickerson and Graceanne (Gracie) Pleva Nickerson entered the world. Both girls were 4 pounds 11 ounces and 17.5 inches long. Our miracles were finally here and we started our lives as a family of four.

Jaime and Family

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I was uncertain about my future. To be here, seven years after my diagnosis, cancer free, married and mama to two of the most amazing beings is all of my dreams come true.

image004Last month, we celebrated our daughters’ first birthday. The joy of each milestone is indescribable, and it reminds me every day about all that YSC did for me.

I chose to give back after my experience and support other young women as an YSC SurvivorLink volunteer and State Leader. I also help by raising vital funds to ensure that YSC will be here for the 11,000 young women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer each year. I signed up for my first Tour de Pink in 2010 and I have ridden every year since. It has been an incredible journey. I am excited to participate in YSC’s new South ride in Florida this year!

This ride started as a way to take power back from cancer, but it has turned into so much more. I’m now part of the most amazing, supportive and loving family – the TDP family. I started as a solo rider and now am part of Team Pleva. To date, we have raised more than $100,000 for the organization that was there for my sister, my family and me during the most difficult time of our lives – YSC.

If you are a young woman who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, you can read other stories and share your story. Connect with other survivors and learn about all of the incredible resources available from YSC. If you would like to make an impact, learn about how you can get involved or support YSC with a tax-deductible donation.



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