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 14 of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Whew, a blog post a day is hard, y’all! But I hope these posts have been informative, entertaining, and full of hope. We all need hope. And we all need to be inspired.
That’s what I’m aiming for tomorrow. Between the pandemic and other turmoil in the world, it’s been over 4 years since I’ve done an in-person race/walk event. I still fundraised and still kept momentum going, but there is just something about seeing a sea of supporters – people with breast cancer, survivors, caregivers, loved ones, and everyone who shows up to raise money and shine a light on this awful disease!
There’s nothing quite like it.
I’ve seen beautiful bald women and women with gorgeous scarves, women with short and long hair spray painted pink, women who’ve traded illness for the graceful bodies of athletes, women with curves for DAYS rocking it, Black, Brown, White, Asian, Indigenous, gay and all the other letters of the alphabet mafia, old, young, and men who’ve also endured this horrible disease and stand in solidarity, not to be forgotten. It’s beautiful. It’s inspiring. It gives me the will to keep going!
Please, keep going!
I walk in memory of my cousin Sherri Killian, taken from us too soon by breast cancer, my uncle Jack, who we lost to cancer, and in honor of my mother, Carol Brantley, survivor. I walk in honor of my bestie Pam Jasper, and my friends Sue Daugherty Draughn, Linda Horton, Janet Piper, Karen Pugh, Tanisha Jones, and so many others who are more private about their cancer stories. So many family members, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances have been touched by cancer. We all know someone.
Sometimes we are that someone.
I walk for you. I may not know you personally, but we are connected. I work for you. I will not rest. If I can help one person, it is worth it. We fight cancer by holding one another up, celebrating victories, and witnessing and remembering those who leave us too soon. We fight.
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!
I hope everyone is off to a great start – avoiding Covid, staying healthy, and finding happiness and joy wherever you can!
I’m so excited to share news about my new job with the Susan G. Komen Foundation! It may come as a bit of a surprise to those who’ve been following my blog and slices of science and life as a scientist. Why leave research? Well, I actually haven’t left research. I’m just doing a different kind of research. More on that later, but first, why the change? As with any big life decision, there were a LOT of contributing factors. Some of the most important include:
Having an Immediate Impact on Patients and Survivors
I love research, value my time in the laboratory, and appreciate every project I had the opportunity to lead or contribute to in some way. I commend and support my colleagues, especially those who will continue my projects in the lab and build on them to make great strides. Since becoming a survivor, however, something was missing for me. I hope something I’ve done in the lab makes it to the clinic someday, but there’s no guarantee. As a survivor, it’s really important to me to make a difference now. At Komen, I’ll have that opportunity. And I’ll also have the opportunity to support Komen Scholars and grantees conducting research! Since I’ll be coding funded grants (click here for more on Common Scientific Outline [CSO] codes) to capture data, which involves reading applications, I’ll also be able to keep up with the latest advances in the field – advances that I can share with my followers and readers here!
100% Remote Work
This is so great in the age of Covid! I want to protect my health and the health of my loved ones, so being able to work from home minimizes my risk of exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and all its variants. Since I no longer have a commute, I’m saving on gas (and cutting my carbon footprint), can hit the ground running by simply turning on my computer and starting my work day, and I can be more efficient and focused. My furry office mates are great company, and I can eat healthier from home and carve out more time for exercise. No excuses!
Also, with 100% remote work, the job can move with me! My husband and bought land in North Carolina for our dream home last year. We haven’t been able to break ground yet due to ongoing supply chain issues and high prices (Thanks, Covid), but it will happen soon. I didn’t want to be moving while looking for a new job at the same time. Don’t have to worry about that now!
Academic Research is very rewarding and has a lot of pros: flexibility, freedom to pursue a myriad of research directions (so long as you can get funding), and being the first to make a new discovery or push the field forward, to name a few. But there are also challenges. The struggle to acquire funding and increasing competition as funding is limited creates a great deal of stress, not to mention long, long hours generating new preliminary data and preparing new grant applications. Before I left, I submitted three grant applications in the space of two months, and it took a toll on me physically and mentally. It also took me away from the things I love about research, like actually doing experiments, mentoring, networking and collaborating, and it took away so much personal time and time with my family. In academia, you’re never really “off.” You’re constantly bringing home papers to read, answering emails after hours, performing literature searches and working on manuscripts before and after dinner and family time, and often working into the wee hours of the morning. At this point in my life and career, I wanted and needed a better work/life balance – as a human being, as a parent, as a caregiver for aging parents – I needed to stop burning my candle at both ends. Komen is all about work/life balance.
Career Growth and Learning New Skills
As a Research Evaluation Manager, I’ll be tracking the impact of Komen funded research in many areas, including products like biomarkers and new drugs, clinical trials, new interventions, and career progression and trajectories for Komen-funded investigators using data collected by amazing colleagues since the early 1980s. The data are so rich and informative, a veritable history of progress in breast cancer research and milestones in treatments. I’m so excited to dig in! I’ll also be involved in adding to the data by coding newly funded grants, as well as evaluating the impact of research and programs sponsored by Komen. There are a wealth of opportunities, and I’m excited to be a part of it!
I’m also stoked about opportunities in communication and outreach! As a writer and communicator with a mission to bring accessible science to the public, this is my jam! I’m hoping to use the skills I honed from writing Talking To My Tatas to be a vocal and effective ambassador for science and liaison between researchers and stakeholders.
A Mission and Community I Believe In
The mission of Susan G. Komen is to save lives by meeting the most critical needs in our communities and investing in breakthrough research to prevent and cure breast cancer. Everyone working at Komen is 100% committed to this mission, which is patient and survivor focused. It’s not just lip service – many of the colleagues I’ve met in my first week are breast cancer survivors or have been directly impacted by breast cancer through friends, family, and loved ones diagnosed with breast cancer. I feel comfortable sharing my story and feel a deep sense of connection and common purpose when I hear the stories of my colleagues. It makes the work so meaningful. I believe in it, and I’m committed to giving it my all to be a part of the solution to the huge problem that is breast cancer.
Greetings, beautiful people! These past two years have been tough, haven’t they? Pandemic fears, economic woes, and uncertainty about the future have caused everything from low level anxiety to outright terror for so many people. I’ve experienced anxiety during each breast procedure I’ve endured over the past two years, from unilateral mastectomy of my left breast followed by physical therapy, expander fills, autologous DUG flap reconstruction surgery, and three revisions to match size and shape that included fat grafts on the left and and mastopexy plus scar revision on the right.
Of course I was anxious about anesthesia, outcome, what I was putting my body through – again – and when it might end. But I was also terrified of exposure to the Covid virus.
Then, I imagined how terrified patients undergoing chemo and radiation must feel, knowing they are at an even higher risk due to a compromised immune system. If you are one of those patients, check out these resources from the American Cancer Society.
That’s left me feeling pretty powerless, and I don’t like that feeling. What can I do? How can I help?
In addition to working in the lab, sharing my knowledge and experience, and giving to my organization, I’ve found giving to organizations dedicated to helping patients facing cancer empowering. These organizations do fantastic work. They not only fund research for tomorrow’s new treatments, they also fund initiative to help patients today. Right now.
For #GivingTuesday2021, I’ve chosen Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Like ACS, they support research, outreach and advocacy, and provide patient resources and support. And they are fully breast cancer focused, providing information and also financial assistance to patients in need – that’s SUPER important in these difficult times. SGK has supported my survivor sisters and their families, my colleagues in research, and they will continue to do so thanks to the generosity of donors.
You don’t have to break the bank to support them, either. Small donations really add up, especially with matching initiatives from partnering sponsors. In fact, donations made to SGK through December 1 have DOUBLE the impact thanks to matching. So this year, consider supporting SGK for Giving Tuesday.
Here are some other great breast cancer/cancer focused organizations you can support, many of which are highlighted in my book and many of which focus on healthcare equity and equality.
OrganizationsYou Can Support
METAvivor is an organization that supports patients with metastatic breast cancer and funds research that specifically seeks to improve outcomes for patients with metastatic disease, https://www.metavivor.org/
Sisters Network, Inc., brings awareness of the impact breast cancer has on the African American community and provides a space for African American breast cancer patients to meet, bond, and receive support while receiving cancer treatment, http://www.sistersnetworkinc.org/.
The African American Breast Cancer Alliance focuses on promoting awareness, early detection, and prevention while providing emotional and social support with culturally specific information and programs for women of color, https://www.aahafortwayne.org/.
Sisters by Choice seeks to eliminate access barriers to screenings and quality care for breast cancer, including a mobile clinic to bring care to uninsured and underserved communities in Georgia, https://www.sistersbychoice.org/.
Black Women’s Health Imperative focuses on improving overall health and wellness of African American women and girls, provides outreach and curates black women’s health data through its #WeRefuse initiative for breast cancer, https://bwhi.org/.
Latinas Contra Cancer is dedicated to creating an inclusive healthcare system for cancer care in the underserved Hispanic/Latina population, http://latinascontracancer.org/.
The Latino Cancer Institute is devoted to promoting education, services, research, and policies that impact Hispanics/Latinos in the United States when it comes to cancer, https://latinocancerinstitute.org/.
The American Indian Cancer Foundation seeks to eliminate cancer burdens of Indigenous people by improving access to prevention, early detection, treatment, and support for survivors, https://www.americanindiancancer.org/.
Asian American Cancer Support Network is dedicated to providing education, support and a diverse network of resources for Asian Americans affected by cancer, http://aacsn.org/.
Maina Foundation is dedicated to raising awareness and support for breast cancer early detection among South Asian Indian women, https://mainafoundation.org/.
The American Association of People with Disabilities is dedicated to increasing political and economic power for people with disabilities, supports access to quality comprehensive and affordable healthcare for people with disabilities as part of their mission, https://www.aapd.com/.
American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities works to protect the universal human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, supports access to quality healthcare, https://www.aaidd.org/.
National LGBT Cancer Network, an organization that provides education, support, and advocacy for LGBT cancer patients and survivors, and also maintains a directory of LGBT-friendly cancer treatment facilities, https://cancer-network.org/.
National LGBT Cancer Project, an organization providing support and advocacy for LGBT cancer survivors and supporting equal and appropriate access to cancer care for the LGBT community, https://www.lgbtcancer.org/.
Got any other organizations to add to my list? Send them my way! Please!
I’ve met and admired many survivor sisters over the years. After my diagnosis, they held me in their arms and lifted me up so I didn’t have to face breast cancer alone. Before I was diagnosed, I got to know a really cool woman named Tanisha Jones. We were represented by the same literary agency at the time, writing romance and urban fantasy* and trying to break into the fiction publishing world in a big way.
*Side note: If you’re a fan of Anne Rice and J.R. Ward, TREAT YOURSELF to Tanisha’s The Fallen Series. This exciting series is full of vampires, Fae, Weres, demons, and other supernatural beings hiding in plain sight in New Orleans. Throw in a hot homicide detective with some supernatural abilities of his own and you’ve got one helluva story!
Like me, Tanisha works in academics (one of her many jobs). She also has a daughter, just a little bit older than mine. She has hopes, dreams, highs, lows, a wicked sense of humor and a drive and work ethic to rival any I’ve seen in my almost 48 years on the planet.
Like me, she has breast cancer. Unlike me, she’s living with metastatic breast cancer (MBC). While there is no cure, she hasn’t allowed MBC to define her life or steal her dreams. She’s still writing – she published Unbound, Book 3 in The Fallen series, this month. She’s still raising her daughter. Due to health issues related to MBC, she isn’t working at the moment but she’s worked since her diagnosis in 2016.
Because America is still balking at the idea that healthcare is a human right rather than a privilege reserved only for the white and wealthy (and healthy), like many Americans, Tanisha is struggling financially due to the cost of her cancer care. I could write an entire rage post on the topics of American healthcare’s failures that include the real possibility of financial ruin, disparities in access and care, and the lack of healthcare equality and equity that is still VERY much a problem in 2020 in this country, and I will.
But right now, what matters is helping my friend who’s struggling with breast cancer.
Tanisha’s family also has a GoFundMe initiative (you know, the largest healthcare “plan” in the United States) to help her. Click here to donate what you can. It helps. It matters.
I have taken the extra book royalties I earned in November plus a small windfall that came to me at just the right time to support Tanisha. I can think of no better person in whom to invest.
Strapped for cash? There’s still plenty you can do. If you know someone going through cancer treatments, reach out. Bring food or groceries, Zoom/Skype/FaceTime and chat to give that person a bit of company and sense of normalcy. In these times, believe me, it helps. Everything, even seemingly small things, help.
Want to help? Donate to my fundraiser and I’ll feature your survival story (or a loved one’s story) on my blog. You can make the donation in honor of someone you love who’s battled breast cancer. My fundraiser is dedicated to my mom, a 10 year survivor, and my cousin, who I lost at the age of 37 to HER2+ breast cancer.
Want something more tangible? Well, my side hustle is writing fiction, including paranormal romance and urban fantasy, which you can read all about at D.B. Sieders. I’m donating all of my royalties from October and November to Making Strides. So you can buy some books, enjoy them, and know that your money is supporting a great cause.
Days like today fill me with so much energy, enthusiasm, and hope.
Nissan Stadium and the surrounding area were JAM PACKED with people – women, men, kiddos, cute doggos, survivors and those who love and honor them – gathered together in a unified purpose: to raise awareness and money for breast cancer research, patient assistance, and to keep making strides!
My wonderful friends/colleagues, including graduate student Laura Kim, medical student Kalin Wilson, and fellow investigator and collaborator Rebecca Cook, joined me to form Team Lab Rats. They were with me through my own adventure with breast cancer and are with me in the laboratory as we search for new and better treatments for molecular targets that drive breast cancer growth, survival, and metastatic progression. It’s a beautiful thing. I’m a lucky woman.
Together, we raised $1,500, and I couldn’t be prouder of these amazing women and all of the teams who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for this cause that is so near and dear to my heart. Nashville, my home city, you make me so proud!
To everyone in Nashville and around the United States (and the world), thank you for your support. It means more than you know to survivors. Thank you.
UPDATE – Team Lab Rats raised $1,500 for Making Strides! Thank you to everyone who donated, bought my books in October, and for everyone who supported and shared fundraiser deets! I’ll be posting pictures from the event this weekend!
I’m thrilled to be a part of the 2019 Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Initiative, sponsored by The American Cancer Society and Avon. American Cancer Society is a great organization, supporting researchers, patients, survivors, and clinicians. I’ve had the great fortune to serve as a peer reviewer for their research grants program, and I’ve got to tell you – there are some AMAZING new investigators across the United States working hard every day to find new treatments, better diagnostics, better interventions, and extending our knowledge of this complex and terrifying collection of diseases.
In addition to research, they fund patient transport to and from treatments, personal assistance to help patients understand their diagnosis and get the help they need, and one-on-one support for breast cancer patients. This is a fantastic organization that I’m proud to support as a researcher, advocate, and survivor.
I’m Team Leader for Team Lab Rats, and we’ve raised over $1,000 so far and growing! I’m also donating 100% of my October book royalties to this Making Strides Fundraiser. Pictures and updates to follow.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer, reach out to The American Cancer Society for accurate information, resources, and support. Knowledge is power. You are not alone.