When I joined the breast cancer community at age 36, I had no idea my diagnosis would take me into the world of advocacy and science around the disease that was trying to kill me. As I transitioned into my professional role as YSC’s third Chief Executive Officer, I also began my education and training to prepare myself to serve as a breast cancer advocate. It was empowering and something that has changed my life forever.
Within my first year as CEO, I traveled to San Antonio for my first San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS). This is the largest annual breast cancer event in the world, and it’s a place where doctors, researchers and advocates come together to share knowledge and work together to improve outcomes and survivorship for breast cancer patients.
While at this event in 2011, I was taken aback by how OLD everyone was. There were so few people my age that I met them all on the first night. How was this possible at an event with 7,500 people? I remember wondering how we could ensure that the voices of young women were heard if there were so few involved in the cause. I was troubled by this and made a commitment at that moment to do something about it.
Since then, we’ve created a strategy, formed partnerships and built up our staff, and YSC is now ready to address this issue.
YSC’s newest program is called RISE. It stands for Respected Influencers through Science and Education – but what it’s really about is the NEXT GENERATION of breast cancer advocates.
You see, I believe it is YSC’s responsibility to ensure that young women are included in every conversation about breast cancer. And that is no small feat. We need a small army of smart, educated, empowered, connected young women to make this happen. And we’ve figured out how to do it.
So what is RISE? Who can be part of this group? First, I’ll tell you what it is not. It is not a place for everyone. This will be a handpicked, elite group of the top breast cancer advocates who will represent the voices of all young breast cancer survivors.
YSC knows many smart, dedicated women who have already spent time, money and energy gaining the scientific knowledge necessary to fill this role – and many have been doing so for years. Those women will become the foundation for RISE. They will be the mentors and leaders of this important work.
But that is not enough. The other part of the program is the education of NEW young women who want the education and opportunity to join these critical discussions. YSC will take on the responsibility to train and teach ten of them every year.
My vision is that someday in the near future, I will be walking around SABCS and hear someone say “I can’t believe how many YOUNG women are here.”
YSC’s mission is to support ALL young women who have been affected by breast cancer in the U.S. – however, it is also to ensure young women are a part of the science and research efforts.
We ALL want a cure for breast cancer. Until that time, YSC is stepping up to invest in the next generation of breast cancer advocates to ensure the voices, needs and experiences of young women affected by breast cancer are a part of every conversation.
Check out YSC’s new RISE program and help spread the word. We are accepting applications through October 9, 2015.