Now in its 10th year, the Congressional Women’s Softball Game (CWSG) has raised more than $1.4 million for YSC and is a staple of Capitol Hill summer activities. CWSG began with captains Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). We are honored to present the Congressional Women’s Softball Game as one of the YSC Game Changers for their continued support.
These leaders brought together a congressional team to play the female campaign staff from both parties after Rep. Wasserman Schultz announced her own breast cancer diagnosis. In 2010, the members asked the women of the Washington, D.C. press corps to play as the opposing team. A lasting rivalry was born.
“I recently celebrated my own 10th year cancer-free,” says Wasserman Schultz, “so I know firsthand that young women can and do get this life-changing diagnosis. When I helped co-found this event, it was to give power and hope to these young women. I had no idea the amount of personal joy, meaning and friendships it would bring into my own life this past decade.”
What inspires you in your work to support, empower or educate young women affected by breast cancer?
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 41, my first thought was, “Will I be there for the milestones in my children’s lives: their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs; their high school graduations; their weddings?” The good news is that I have danced the Hora at all three of my children’s Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and moved my twins into their college dorm rooms.
For as much as I thought I knew as an advocate and legislator in the fight against breast cancer, there was a lot I didn’t know now as a patient. I didn’t know that as an Ashkenazi Jew, I was 10 times more likely to have a genetic mutation that drastically increases the likelihood of getting breast or ovarian cancer. I didn’t know that carriers of the BRCA gene have up to an 85% lifetime chance of getting breast cancer and up to a 60% chance of getting ovarian cancer. After my diagnosis and going through a genetic test, I found out that I do indeed have the BRCA2 mutation.
I was fortunate that I knew enough about my risks and got the help I needed, but I didn’t find my tumor through luck. I found it through knowledge and awareness. I was determined to translate my own experience into action. As a legislator, I knew I had to advocate for the education and resources that we so desperately need to fight this disease.
What about your work for young women affected by breast cancer makes you most proud?
I want other young women to have better access to information and tools to detect, fight and survive breast cancer. I also want all young women to know that they’re never alone in battling this disease and that there are always resources available to help them.
That’s why, after 15 months of surgeries and treatment, I introduced the Education and Awareness Requires Learning Young Act, or EARLY Act. The EARLY Act became law as part of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and was reauthorized in 2014. Under this law, the federal government is tasked with developing and implementing national education campaigns for the public and healthcare providers about the threat breast cancer poses to all young women. Since its enactment, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has spent nearly $37 million on the 4 areas specified in the bill: prevention research, public education, support grants and health professional education.
Ten years later, I’m proud to have used my platform to help ensure younger women and women of higher risk due to their ethnic and racial backgrounds have the tools and resources they need to make informed decisions about their breast health.
I am also proud to have co-founded the Congressional Women’s Softball Game to raise awareness and funds for the 12,000 young women in the US who will be diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Since the first game in 2009, we have raised over $1 million for YSC! I’m so thrilled that the money we raise is able to contribute to YSC’s mission to bring power and hope to young survivors.
What are your hopes for the future, with regard to YSC and young breast cancer survivors?
Although we cannot yet prevent or cure breast cancer, it is my ongoing hope that younger women empower themselves with the knowledge and resources to help save lives. By combining the powerful forces of research, advocacy, education and direct support to cancer patients, we are making huge strides in this battle.
What is your message for YSC on its 20th anniversary?
Younger survivors are faced with unique issues not faced by older survivors. For 20 years, the Young Survival Coalition has provided them with resources, hope and reassurance that they’re never alone in battling this disease. The support YSC provides is critical, and the survivor community looks forward to the day when we have finally beaten this deadly disease, once and for all.
About YSC and Game Changers
Young Survival Coalition was founded in 1998 by young women diagnosed with breast cancer under age 35.
YSC is made up of people: survivors, co-survivors, volunteers, donors, healthcare providers. Our strength comes from our community. So in our 20th year, we will honor our roots — the people who have helped build YSC into what it is today — and also look forward, recognizing those in our community who are changing the future of breast cancer in young women.
We are highlighting these individuals as Game Changers throughout 2018 and sharing their stories with the world to thank them for their contributions to our community.