Demanding Better, con't.
U-M's Breast Cancer Advisory & Advocacy Committee members work to improve care for future survivors
Q: So you think that breast cancer advocacy is unique in some ways because of its specific impact on women?Ruth: I think it's part of our acculturation as women to be caretakers, to be nurturing. We do this for ourselves, our daughters and our sisters. I really do think we need to give credit to the NBCC, though, as theyve really helped to politicize women and empower them to be assertive.
Q: Why did you personally become involved in advocacy?Maria: After working in public health as a nurse, I was startled to find that the same two drugs I'd seen administered for breast cancer when I was a student in 1964 were the same two drugs I received when I was diagnosed in 2001. There has been some progress, but why hasn't there been more? I also watched as younger women were diagnosed with breast cancer. They had to take two years out of their lives for treatment, which was often devastating to their family lives and their financial stability. I wanted to get involved to help draw attention to this important problem.
Ruth: For me, I come from a very political background. It's in my roots. I believe in community organizing. When I learned about breast cancer advocacy, it seemed natural to put my energy behind it.
Q: What do you think survivors gain from it?Maria: For me, it's about being of service to others. At first, I didn't want to think about breast cancer after I had finished treatment. But after I was healed and well enough, the question of how I could be of service to others kept bubbling up. I was never taught to lead or be an advocate, but this became my passion.
Q: What do you need to know to become an advocate? How can you educate yourself?Ruth: Breast cancer survivors are welcome to join our committee. We also recommend educational opportunities offered by the National Breast Cancer Coalition's Project LEAD course, which provides scientific and advocacy background information. The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship also offers advocacy training for people with interest in other cancer types. Also, talk to your doctor, as we have found that faculty members are often interested in partnering with patients to advance research. Empowering yourself to become an assertive, knowledgeable patient can only help to further the cause.