Use the promo code 22JOYSALE at checkout to get the sale price now through January 6, 2023!
This is a great deal, as you’ll save over $12 on the Hardback and almost $12 on the eBook. Know someone who is going through breast cancer? This would be a helpful gift. Know someone who’s a science loving nerd? They’ll probably like it, too!
Conquer: The Patient Voice is a fantastic publication for cancer survivors and those living with cancer. I was so grateful for the opportunity to share my story in the October issue!
Stories are powerful. I knew that before I was diagnosed with cancer. As a fiction writer and as a science communicator, I understood the value of stories, the impact they could have beyond facts, numbers, and concepts. Personal stories connect us to the experiences of others like nothing else, and they can inform, inspire, give hope, and educate all in one.
I’m a big fan of stories, and the stories of patients in Conquer Magazine have inspired me, given me hope and insight, and educated me in ways no scientific study or statistical graphic could. No disrespect to science. It’s my bread and butter. But using the power of personal stories to engage people is a gateway to informing them.
I encourage all breast cancer survivors and those living with breast cancer to share their stories. At your level of comfort, of course. Share with your family and close friends. Share with survivor groups. Or share with a wider audience and use your platform to advocate and educate.
It’s day 26 of National Breast Cancer Awareness month! Today, I had the opportunity to appear on the Tampa Reads segment of Fox 13 in Tampa with anchor Linda Hurtado! I was able to share my breast cancer story with a bit about science, about my personal story, and a bit about Talking to My Tatas.
It was a great experience and I hope I convinced some viewers to schedule their mammograms! Shout out to Linda Hurtado, Lisa Emerson, and the rest of Fox 13 News Team!
It’s day 25 of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Elections are coming up November 8, but many states, including Tennessee, provide opportunities for early voting. I voted today, and I have the sticker to prove it! We all know that voting is a right that was hard won, and YOUR VOTE MATTERS! It matters especially in local and state elections where you choose the candidates that will represent you in everyday matters.
This is true for many issues, including health. As a breast cancer survivor and advocate, I lend my vote and my voice to support policies that help with health equity and equality, screening access and affordability, affordable quality cancer care for everyone no matter where you live, no matter your income, no matter your race, ethnicity, gender identity, ability or disability—EVERYONE deserves a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible.
What sorts of legislation is on the line for breast cancer? The Metastatic Breast Cancer Access to Care Act is “a bill to amend title II of the Social Security Act to eliminate the waiting periods for disability insurance benefits and Medicare coverage for individuals with metastatic breast cancer and for other purposes.” That means that people living with MBC will be able to get the financial assistance they need immediately without the barrier of long waiting periods.
Another important piece of legislation is the Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Research and Education Act of 2021 (Introduced in 2021). “This bill requires research and education activities related to triple-negative breast cancer. The cells of these breast cancers are negative for estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and excess HER2 protein, so they do not respond to hormonal therapy medicines or medicines that target the HER2 protein receptors. Specifically, the National Institutes of Health must conduct and support research into the disease. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Health Resources and Services Administration must develop information about triple-negative breast cancer, including information regarding the elevated risk for minority women, for the public and for health care providers.” This is so important given the aggressive nature of the triple negative breast cancer subtype.
These are just two examples of legislation at the national level (you can find information about other important legislation for breast cancer here). Check your state legislature’s website for pending legislation specific for your state. Let your elected officials know you support legislation that helps breast cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, and the general public. And remember to VOTE! Check out this site for dates and details for your district.
It’s day 23 of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month! I skipped a few days due to lack of spoons (see my previous post about spoon theory and chronic illness), but I have some extras today and am excited at the prospect of bringing my message to folks in Tampa, Florida, and beyond!
My amazing Literary Agent, Barbara Rosenberg, put me in touch with Linda Hurtado, an award-winning news anchor by day who writes heart stopping thrillers as Linda Bond (and I totally recommend checking out her books!). Linda then invited me to appear on her live show for Breast Cancer Awareness Month! It’s scheduled for Wednesday, October 26, at 12:00 pm EST for her Tampa Bay Reads segment. I’ll be talking about breast cancer from both a patient and research perspective, talking about the book, and hopefully convincing viewers to schedule their mammograms!
This will be my first television appearance and I’m both excited and a little nervous, but I have faith in Linda and I’ll just be prepared to be poised but still be myself as I share my story and hopefully some more information about breast cancer that the public needs to know.
Super grateful for the opportunity and hope it helps me make a difference! Wish me luck!
I’ll be sure to post the link in a future blog post!
It’s day 15 of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and WHAT A DAY! There is something truly magical, beautiful, and inspiring about being surrounded by a crowd of survivors, their loved ones, and those devoted to the mission of ending breast cancer! Here are some highlights from today!
Beautiful people doing AMAZING work to raise dollars and awareness for breast cancer!
The Incomparable Riley Weston, Actress, Singer, Writer, Author, Activist, and our TOP FUNDRAISER!!!!!
To all those in the thick of it with breast cancer, survivors, their caregivers and loved ones, and those who have lost loved ones too soon – we work for you!
Want to help? Here’s the Link to My Fundraiser! Or donate to your favorite survivor, team, or other nonprofit dedicated to eradicating breast cancer!
It’s day 11 of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month! I’ve been so inspired, entertained (laughter is often the best medicine), and filled with pride by social media activity showcasing people working hard to raise breast cancer awareness, celebrating survivors, and sharing their stories!
Here are a few of my favorite videos for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month!
This video featuring funny stories from deaf breast cancer survivors lit me up!
Funny stories from 4 deaf breast cancer survivors!
On of my favorite comedians, the incomparable Tig Notaro, tells us how to make breast cancer funny!
Tig is the BEST!
And last but not least, here’s a great story from another favorite comedian, the amazing Wanda Sykes!
It’s nice to not need a bra!
Got any favorites? Send me links! Sharing is caring, and we could all use a laugh!
It’s day 10 of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Today is all about raising funds to support the vital mission of non-profits devoted to eradicating breast cancer! This year, I’m raising funds for Susan G. Komen through the Greater Nashville More Than Pink Walk!
***Note: I am a Komen employee, but my fundraising is part of my personal advocacy work outside of the organization, and opinions expressed in this blog are my own. I do not speak for Komen here.***
You can support my fundraiser HERE! My goal is to raise $1,000!
Why fundraising? Because I understand how important the mission is for patients, survivors, caregivers, and loved ones who have been affected by breast cancer. As a breast cancer researcher, funding was the number one priority for me in my lab. Without funding to pay for qualified personnel, supplies, infrastructure, and other items necessary to keep a state-of-the-art laboratory running, innovations and treatments of the future can’t happen.
As an advocate and survivor, I understand how important advances in screening, diagnostics, treatments, and survivorship are for survivors like me and for future survivors. I benefitted from advanced surgical and molecular diagnostic technologies, and I know that if my cancer comes back, there are so many more treatment options to keep me alive and thriving.
Being in the field, I understand that inequities and inequalities in breast cancer screening and care plague our nation in communities of color, in LGBTQIA+ communities, in people with disabilities, and in poor and un/underinsured communities. Fundraising for organizations that make eliminating disparities a vital part of their mission is key to make sure everybody has an equal and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible.
Fundraising also helps me feel empowered. Everyone’s breast cancer experience is unique. For me, the feeling of helplessness was one of my biggest challenges. Working to eradicate breast cancer through advocacy and fundraising has helped me take back my power. And it gives me hope! We could all use that!
Please support your favorite breast cancer charity for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Every donation matters!
And stay tuned for pictures from the More Than Pink Walk. I’ll be rocking pink hair and a pink boa to celebrate!
One of the things I love about my work in advocacy is discovering amazing people who are doing the work and making a difference! Valeda Keys is one such remarkable person. She’s a Global Ambassador for Breast Cancer Awareness, using her platform and the Non-Profit organization she founded, Valeda’s Hope, to assist women in their journey from diagnosis to remission. She has one hell of a compelling story that includes a family history of breast cancer, a personal battle with breast cancer that included seven surgeries, and finding strength and empowerment in helping others.
When I learned about her work on LinkedIn, I was blown away.
Valeda, who is an Author, Speaker, LPN, Non-Profit Founder, Breast Health Navigator, and all around incredible human being, helped her mother through a breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, and later recurrence. A dream told her that she would one day endure her own battle with breast cancer, which unfortunately came true in 2010. Luckily, because of her family history, Valeda started receiving mammography screening at the age of 27 and kept up with her screenings, which allowed her healthcare team to detect her first breast cancer at an early stage. After a lumpectomy, she received the results of her genetic testing, which revealed that she carries a variant of theBRCA-2(BReast CAncer gene 2) gene associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Quick Science Break
Everyone has two BRCA1 and two BRCA2 genes, but sometimes a variant of one of these genes that doesn’t work gets passed down from one of your parents. If something happens to the other copy of the BRCA gene in a cell (for example, a cell from your breast or ovary), it can increase your risk for cancer. Why? BRCA genes encode information to make proteins that help fix damage to DNA. DNA molecules encode and store all the information a cell needs to make proteins, which allows a cell to live and perform its function. When DNA is damaged, it messes with the code, and if the damage isn’t repaired, cells make defective proteins that don’t function well or in the case of cancer-causing oncogenes, function too well. Defects in some genes make cells grow uncontrollably, and sometimes those cells turn into cancer cells. Variants of BRCA genes that don’t function to fix DNA damage makes it more likely for oncogenes to get activated and make cells grow uncontrollably, leading to cancer. In the graphic above, you can see a DNA repair deficient breast cell in which the BRCA genes encode DNA repair proteins that don’t work. Because the defective BRCA gene produces a defective protein, the cell can’t repair DNA damage and gets a lot more mutations in a lot of different genes. Some of these mutations create defective proteins that let the cell grow uncontrollably, even without estrogen (E2) or other cues from the body that tell cells when to grow. See my Cancer 101 blog post and my other blog poston how cells become cancerous for a refresher on the cell biology of breast cancer, DNA damage and how it leads to cancer, and oncogenes.
End Science Break
Now, back to Valeda’s story. Since she carries a variant of BRCA-2 that doesn’t work, she was still at risk for getting another breast cancer or ovarian cancer after her first breast cancer diagnosis. She decided to keep her breasts and get screened more often, a valid choice. (Note: there are no right or wrong choices when it comes to keeping your breasts or having a double mastectomy. There are only informed choices you make with your healthcare team that are right for you.). She also endured radiation therapy that led to some serious complications, and was treated with tamoxifen, a drug that blocks estrogen function. In spite of this, she was diagnosed with a new breast cancer in 2011 and opted for a double mastectomy and autologous reconstruction (i.e. reconstruction using her own tissue from her abdomen to build new breasts), which unfortunately came with some complications, and later had a hysterectomy.
Through it all, she remained focused and determined not to let breast cancer get in the way of living a full life and achieving her goals. Her faith helped her through, and it gave her a mission to educate, empower, and help other women through their own breast cancer journeys. Among the many amazing things she does through Valeda’s Hope, Valeda sponsors a ton of mobile mammography events and encourages women to keep up with life-saving screenings. She shares her knowledge and experience through speaking engagements and educational events like Valeda’s Hope Pink & Pearls Luncheons. Valeda also hosts events that provide emotional and physical support as well as information about genetic testing for breast cancer risk genes, and so much more.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the breast cancer survivor community is so supportive! Survivors support other survivors, patients, and caregivers. As a survivor, Valeda is using her voice and actions to help other women survive and thrive, and that deserves a spotlight, kudos, and celebration!
Cancer is a great and terrible equalizer. It doesn’t care if you’re a Democrat, Republican, Independent, or if you support other political philosophies or are apolitical. Anyone can be diagnosed with cancer. For breast cancer, access to routine screening and diagnostic imaging is critical for early detection, accurate diagnosis, and receiving treatments in a timely fashion.
It can literally mean the difference between life and death.
When breast cancer metastasizes, or spreads to other parts of the body, time is precious, and people living with metastatic breast cancer need all the financial and medical support they can get.
How can you help? There are two pieces of legislation in need of support and a federal program in desperate need of reauthorization:
The first piece of legislation, the Access to Breast Cancer Diagnosis (ABCD) Act, will reduce out-of-pocket costs for diagnostic imaging for people with health insurance. While screening mammography is normally covered, additional imaging that’s needed when something suspicious or abnormal is spotted on a mammogram can become pricey. For each of my diagnoses (initial breast cancer diagnosis and diagnosis for residual disease), I required additional diagnostic mammography, diagnostic MRI, and diagnostic ultrasound. They were most DEFINITELY medically necessary to determine that the suspicious lesions on my mammography were indeed cancer – and for past follow-up diagnostic imaging, to determine that suspicious lesions were benign. This legislation will reduce the financial burden for diagnostic imaging that can be a barrier for early diagnosis.
The second piece of legislation, the Metastatic Breast Cancer Access to Care Act, would reduce wait times for receiving Social Security Disability Benefits and Medicare. Right now, the wait time for Medicare benefits for people living with metastatic breast cancer is 5 months, and the average wait for disability is 24 months. The five-year survival rate for stage 4 metastatic breast cancer (MBC) is 22 percent, and the median survival is three years (Reference). As one legislative staffer noted when I spoke with him about the issue and the wait times, “That’s cruel.” It is. People living with MBC need medical care coverage and financial support for themselves and their families. Legislation waiving wait times for ALS and end-stage kidney disease passed, setting a precedent for this important legislation supporting MBC.
Please contact your Senators and Congressional Representative and urge them to co-sponsor and/or support these three key pieces of legislation. Feel free to copy and paste information from this blog post or use it as a script in a phone call.