My story begins like too many others – diagnosis, mastectomies, chemo, complications, radiation and reconstruction. There I was caught in the maze of medical jargon, facing life-altering decisions, financial concerns, exhaustion, and an emotional roller coaster—my worries as a wife, mother, friend, co-worker, sister, daughter—facing my own mortality every day in the mirror.
It took nearly two years before I dared call myself a survivor.
Yet I am one of the lucky ones. I have access to some of the best medical care in the country. I have insurance. I have a team of experts watching me closely. I have found resources to begin the emotional healing journey. I have a support network of family and friends. I have had experiences I would never want to repeat, but many more that I would relive, over and over again. Finally, I can say I feel “good” – and mean it!
There was, however, a restlessness inside me. The nagging voice in my head begged the questions. “What are you doing to give back?” “How are you helping?” “Are you making a difference today?”
So I fundraised for Steppin Out in Pink; I walked; I volunteered; I became a breast cancer patient advocate; I attended a retreat and conference; I mentored and supported a friend through her breast cancer journey.
Still, it just didn’t feel “right.”
Then I came across a booth at a conference. I was immediately drawn in. The phrase “beyond the pink ribbon” piqued my interest. It was the Wisconsin Breast Cancer Coalition (WBCC)—the politics of breast cancer—focusing on legislative advocacy. WBCC’s mission is to bring Wisconsin voices together to “stand up and speak out,” engaging in active lobbying for breast cancer-related legislation, with the ultimate goal of eradicating this disease. I joined on the spot. I’ve worked in a law office, and had experience as a lobbyist. This was a natural fit for me.
My breast cancer journey has now taken me several times to our State Capitol in Madison and to Washington DC to meet and speak with our legislators. We stand up and speak out with purpose ensuring our legislators and policy makers hear from the patient’s perspective.
Becoming an advocate through the WBBC and the National Breast Cancer Coalition has allowed that little voice in my head to now be heard in Wisconsin and our nation’s capitol. I know I’m making a difference by attacking this disease from a different angle. I’m not a victim of breast cancer, I am a strong voice advocating for what it will take to eliminate it—part of a collective voice for positive change—that can truly make a difference.
Plain and simple, we need to go beyond the pink ribbon. Join me.