Beyond C4YW: LBBC’s Continuing Commitment to Young Women

LBBCbannerJean A. Sachs, MSS, MLSP, wrote the letter below to reflect on the end of C4YW and to remind you all that LBBC remains committed to serving young women affected by breast cancer. For more information about our upcoming events and programs, visit our website, lbbc.org.

Dear Friends,

This year marks the end of C4YW, an event that was founded in 2001 by Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) to address the needs of women diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 45. The following year, we invited the Young Survival Coalition (YSC) to co-host the event with us.

Over the past 13 years the conference became the largest of its kind. LBBC and YSC worked as equal partners in developing the conference, marketing it and raising the funds necessary to meet the need. First and foremost in our partnership was our goal to provide the best information, support and networking possible for young women affected by breast cancer. We achieved that and so much more. More than 10,000 participants benefited from C4YW, and we allocated over $1 million in travel grants to bring women and caregivers to this unique, and many times transformational, weekend.

On behalf of LBBC, I thank you for your participation in the conference.

Last November, YSC informed us with the bittersweet news that they would be ending the partnership following the February 2014 conference. I want to assure you that while the C4YW brand will be “retired”, it in no way impacts the commitment LBBC has to serving young women.

LBBC has been serving young women since 1996, and our strong commitment to providing robust services for them and their caregivers remains steadfast. Currently, LBBC’s Young Women’s Initiative includes:

I am so proud of the rich, timely and compassionate programs LBBC offers young women through our Young Women’s Initiative. In the coming months, I will be working with the board and staff to identify new ways to add to our programmatic offerings that serve this important LBBC constituency.

Onward,

Jean A. Sachs, MSS, MLSP
LBBC Chief Executive Officer
Toll-free Breast Cancer Helpline: (888) 753-LBBC (5222)
354 West Lancaster Ave., Suite 224
Haverford, PA 19041
(855)-807-6386

Our New Vision and Mission

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This morning, Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s CEO Jean Sachs released the following message to our friends and supporters:

Dear Friends:

All of us at Living Beyond Breast Cancer are excited to share our new vision and mission statements with you:

Our new vision

A world where no one impacted by breast cancer feels uninformed or alone.

Our new mission

To connect people with trusted breast cancer information and a community of support.

These new statements were developed with the help of over 1,200 of you who responded to a survey we sent out earlier this year. Your input was used in a day-long retreat with members of the board of directors and staff. We learned what LBBC services are valued most and why so many have come to depend on our educational programs and services that allow for connection to others diagnosed with breast cancer.

For me, these new statements say with clarity what we strive to do every day and what we hope to achieve over time. Yesterday, I spoke with a long-time friend who had just been diagnosed with breast cancer.  She was overwhelmed, scared and shocked. Our conversation and the resources I was able to put in her hands grounded her and provided her with enough comfort and confidence to take the next step.

This is what LBBC does every day, and it is exactly what the new vision and mission statements express.

I hope you share my enthusiasm and, as always, if you have comments I would love to hear from you.

Warmly,

Jean 

Jean A. Sachs, MSS, MLSP

Chief Executive Officer

LBBC

I Talk To Strangers, You Should Too!

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Long time LBBC blog contributor, RANDI RENTZ, graduated with honors from The Johns Hopkins University with a Masters degree in Special Education. She was an editorial assistant for a publishing company in suburban Washington,DC before becoming a special education teacher in a school district outside Philadelphia, PA. Randi currently is an Asperger’s Support Teacher for grades kindergarten through fifth. Presently, Randi has her own consulting company for children on the Autistic Spectrum where you can see her work at   www.helpforaspergers.com. She is a proud member, supporter, and blogger for many breast cancer organizations and never leaves the house without diamonds. Visit Randi at her web site at www.randirentz.com. Be sure to check out the teaser for her upcoming book “Why Buy a Wig…When You Can Buy Diamonds!”

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Call me crazy, but I look forward to waiting in line, and just about any opportunity to shoot the breeze with people I don’t know. I’m chummy with the guy who pumps my gas, (the only gas station nearby where they still pump gas for you), still exchange holiday cards with my 4th grade elementary school teacher, and the other day I spent a solid hour gabbing with an 81-year old woman I met at the tailor’s while having my pants hemmed.

I’m now a life-long, die-hard people person. I never used to be, though. In fact, I never enjoyed chatty encounters with people I didn’t know…until cancer. I wasn’t hostile before breast cancer.  Every day I had pleasant exchanges with strangers and acquaintances—an enthusiastic “Morning!” or a friendly “Have a great day!”  Such moments continue to be life-affirming, yet, prior to breast cancer, they were blessedly brief.

On-the-fly updates from people I’ve barely met used to drain me. Seriously.  I always felt obliged to respond with genuine emotion, to pay real attention. I would fake outrage or concern, with a performance that was definitely Oscar worthy. That meant stopping whatever I was doing, and force myself to focus. Since my laser-beam concentration was always sensed by the people stopping me, their details got longer and longer. Oy, vey! I felt trapped like a mouse in a maze.

Did breast cancer make me a people person? Well, I think it made me more aware of the little moments in life that make up the big moments. I now enjoy being a true people person—even though I’m inclined to dislike anyone who describes himself/herself this way. Go figure. I digress, sorry. Anyhoo, hear me out. Lifting your head and engaging with whoever happens to be standing next to you is worth the effort. It’s nice to see people smile and to genuinely smile back. It really feels good and refreshing. You should try it.

For one thing, you never know when you will receive priceless advice.  The 81-year-old cautioned me to get in good with my son’s future wife and to always take the dog out for an evening walk to do “its business.” Little did she know, I have no children and own two cats which use a litter-box. Needless to say, I felt it worthy to file away her words of wisdom. Maybe a stepson and a dog are in my future. Who knows? I digress. Sorry. When I left the fitting room, fiddling with the waistband of my pants, she said, “With posture like that, who needs Spanx? Coming from a stooped octogenarian, her words felt like a wake-up call to enjoy my youthful existence.

I believe my world is bigger with my random encounters. My brushes with strangers bring me the thrill of the unexpected, to glimpse a world I used to brush off and otherwise never see or appreciate. In the frenzy of life, with intense money, work and time pressure, I honestly didn’t have much conversational energy to spare.

Now, I think of it as a habit as “meeting new people,” even if I never see them again. My encounters with strangers bring me back to a place where I long to be. I never had grandparents, because they died before I was born.  But now I cherish chance meetings with people of all ages, especially older people. I find their perspective to be rather eye-opening.

Instead of rolling my eyes, I appreciate the interruption. I am so grateful for the little things in life. I now understand what being a warm person means.

And now, onto the Spanx…

LBBC’s Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Focus Groups Need Participants!

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Do you have triple-negative breast cancer, or know someone who does? LBBC is planning several focus groups to learn about the needs of women living with triple-negative breast cancer. Groups are planned in the areas of Chapel Hill, N.C., on April 10; Philadelphia, Pa., on April 12 and April 13, (focusing on metastatic breast cancer); and San Francisco, Calif., and Indianapolis, Ind., the last week of April (dates TBD). Groups last 90 minutes, and participants receive a $25 gift card for their time. If you are interested in participating in a focus group, please contact us ASAP at publications@lbbc.org and let us know which location interests you. We will be in touch with more information!

LBBC Introduces New Guide To Understanding Breast Cancer

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Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) has announced the release of Hormonal Therapy, the newest title in this national nonprofit’s library of Guides to Understanding Breast Cancer. It joins nineteen other LBBC publications available in print and electronic formats designed to address the needs of women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

 

The guide provides insight and answers about the complexities of hormonal therapy, treatment that reduces estrogen in the body, for women with breast cancer. Hormonal therapy for breast cancer is sometimes referred to as endocrine or anti-estrogen therapy. Breast cancer hormonal therapy can reduce the risk of disease recurrence, prevent new breast cancers and improve survival. Approximately 70% of breast cancers are hormone-sensative¹ and many women are likely to receive hormonal therapy as adjuvant therapy – treatment given after primary therapy.

 

The Guide to Understanding Hormonal Therapy was co-authored by Janine E. Guglielmino, MA, LBBC’s director of publications and strategic initiatives, and medical writer Robin Warshaw.  “At Living Beyond Breast Cancer, we know women face many choices when it’s time to begin treatment for hormone receptor-positive breast cancer,” Guglielmino states. “This guide was developed to help women ask their providers informed questions about how hormonal therapies and their side effects may impact their day-to-day lives.  And since hormonal therapy lasts for many years, the guide aims to address the questions women have today – as well as those that may arise tomorrow – as those concerns may very well change over time.”

 

In addition to Guglielmino and Warshaw, a committee made up of more than a dozen oncology professionals, LBBC staff and women affected by breast cancer reviewed and contributed stories to the sixty-six page guide, which is divided into eight sections and written in clear and easy-to-understand language.  Section topics include hormonal therapy options, common questions about treatment decisions, coping with side effects, what to expect when treatment ends and additional resources.

 

The guide focuses on hormonal therapy for early-stage (ed. note – stage 0-II) or locally advanced (ed. note – stage III) hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. Hormonal therapy is also used to treat recurrent and metastatic (stage IV) hormone positive disease and to prevent first breast cancers in women at high risk for developing breast cancer.

 

“We believe women can play a powerful role in their treatment when they have the resources to help them make informed decisions and be full advocates for their own health,” say LBBC CEO Jean A. Sachs, MSS, MLSP. “In addition to this guide, LBBC has additional resources at lbbc.org.”

 

Free, individual copies of the Guide to Understanding Hormonal Therapy are available online or by calling (610) 645-4567. Larger quantities may be ordered for a small shipping and handling fee.

 

¹National Cancer Institute

Jeanette Caligiuri: Triple Negative, Triple Threat

On Tuesday, July 10th, Living Beyond Breast Cancer will host a free Community Meeting addressing the diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer.  In preparation for that event, LBBC would like to introduce Jeanette Caligiuri, co-founder of Faith & Hope Boutique and an eloquent triple negative breast cancer survivor.

I am sure we all vividly remember the day that our lives changed forever when our worst fears were confirmed; “I am so sorry…you have breast cancer.” I wish I could say I was stunned or shaken, but what I was feeling was almost relief…

Breast cancer has always been part of my life; it very hard to remember a day that we didn’t coexist. The disease has touched every female family member on my maternal side. I have childhood memories of spending Thursdays at Pennsylvania Hospital in outpatient chemo with my mom who was diagnosed in her late twenties. I often assumed that everyone’s mom was bald and unable to hug too tightly because of her latest “boo-boo.” My mother was taken too soon, barely thirty-five, her mother in her early fifties and the chain continued…to me. To some, my story is sad, but to me it’s empowering. I armed myself with knowledge and preventative care. When the enemy came knocking, I would be prepared. I had an army of three who I felt with me through every surgery, each round of chemo and numerous setbacks. I had the knowledge that I was a BRCA1 mutation carrier—the only puzzling thing about my diagnosis that I was to learn was that my breast cancer was triple negative.

“What does that mean?” I naively asked the surgeon, “Negative is good, right?” I heard myself scream with fear. “Not exactly” are not words of reassurance from your doctor as he went on to explain and rattle off statistics that I was no longer able to comprehend. My focus was on aggressive, poor prognosis, higher mortality and many more awful adjectives.

Upon returning home, I immediately hit the web and researched into the wee hours of the morning. I remember waking the next day paralyzed with fear that I would never see the youngest of my three sons’ graduate elementary school, let alone Start College. I vaguely remember time passing slowly until the following weekend arrived, when I attended my first annual Fall Conference: “News You Can Use” hosted by Living Beyond Breast Cancer. That morning, before the first keynote speaker took to the stage, I was embraced into the sisterhood that spoke to my fears and filled me with resolve. If anyone was meant to be in attendance that day, it was me, as a key focus of the conference was on triple negative breast cancer. I learned so much that day and left with renewed spirit and most importantly, hope.

Now that I am a six-year survivor, I have taken many lessons from this journey: that we don’t get to choose what happens to us in life, but we do get to decide how to use it. My experiences have given me a voice to speak to young women while volunteering for groups like Living Beyond Breast Cancer and Young Survival Coalition. I have been rewarded the gift of purpose by co-founding my survival shops, Faith & Hope Boutique. But the greatest lesson I have learned is that good things come in threes: the legacy of my Grammy, mom and myself. My three sons, who I have watched graduate from elementary and high school. That we all have a past, can live for today and tomorrow is future enough to plan for. That most importantly, a triple negative diagnosis what not my ending, but a new beginning.

For more information about Faith & Hope Boutique, a shop fully staffed by survivors who are ABC and BOC Certified and rely on their own personal post mastectomy experiences to aid in your recovery, visit their website. Also, if you’re interested in learning more about triple negative breast cancer, head over to the LBBC website to order or download the Guide to Understanding: Triple Negative Breast Cancer.

Your stories make me want to share mine

This entry was Rita Marie Pinto. Rita Marie was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 25 but looks at the diagnosis as a blessing in disguise:

As I’ve been reading the blogs posted by fellow survivors over the past few months, I’ve felt compelled to share my story.  You women have given me a sense of hope, strength, and sisterhood, and I wanted to return the favor. 

When you’re 25 years old and diagnosed with breast cancer, you truly feel as though your world has just come to an end.  I was at work when I received the phone call that changed my life.  The radiologist said to me “Do you have a moment to discuss the results of your biopsy?”  That’s when I knew something was seriously wrong.  “We found malignancy” she said.  I was in total and complete shock; I will never forget the feeling of my heart sinking to my feet.  For the first few seconds, I cried without tears- if you’ve been there, you’ll know what I’m referring to.  Then the waterworks came; I cried hysterically for about an hour.  The worst part about being diagnosed is the unknown.  What happens next?!  Where do I go from here?!  To say that this is scary is beyond an understatement. 

That being said, here I am 8 months later- thankful, blessed, happy, cancer-free, and healing!  I want you know that you WILL heal.  You will get better, you will feel better, and you WILL get through this.  As with any journey, it comes with its struggles: bad days and times where you’re going to want to throw a hairbrush at a mirror and scream to the top of your lungs…literally.  And one day 8 months from now, you’ll be in my shoes with a grin on your face knowing that the worst is over and the best is yet to come, You’ll say to yourself, “Been there, done that!”  I am still a work in progress, but I’ve come so far from where I started.  

Over the past 8 months, I’ve had a battery of tests, a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, 6 rounds of chemo spanning over 18 weeks, port placement and removal, countless doctors’ appointments, and I’m currently scheduled to have permanent implants placed on September 19.  No, it has not been easy by any means, but it is doable.  I’ve been surrounded by amazing family, friends, my boyfriend, co-workers, and all of the wonderful medical professionals taking care of me.  They’ve made me laugh when I wanted to cry, and cried with me when I couldn’t hold it in.  They’ve listened to my every complaint, and they’ve rejoiced with me when things got better.  I will never forget what they have done for me. 

Breast cancer came to me as blessing in disguise. Yes, a blessing in disguise. I’ve accomplished SO much since my diagnosis (I’ll share this with you at a later time) and each day I heal a little more.  My hair is now growing back, I’m eating healthy and working out 3-5 times per week, I just started my dream job this month, and I feel wonderful!  I am empowered.  I’ve chosen to NOT let breast cancer be my “elephant in the room.”  I’ve decided that it is my secret weapon.  I beat breast cancer…There is nothing that I can’t accomplish or overcome!  I am healing.  I believe through writing for LBBC’s blog, I will continue to heal with you as we share our experiences and encouragement.  As the famous song “Turn, Turn, Turn” by The Byrds explains, there is a time for everything, and now is my time to heal.

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Rita Marie and her boyfriend, Mike, during active chemo.

Rita Marie is just one of many women who has been diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age. If you were diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 45, you may be interested in attending the Annual Conference for Young Women Affected by Breast Cancer. Visit www.C4YW.org for more information.