A World Without Breast Cancer

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993, at the age of 45, I did not think I would live to see our then fourteen-year-old daughter Gail, graduate from high school. I am thrilled I have lived 24 years past my breast cancer diagnosis and watched Gail graduate from college, graduate school, marry and have two children of her own.  But, there is not a day goes by that I don’t fear a recurrence.

Christine Carpenter (2nd from left) works hard to advocate for an end to breast cancer. She is pictured here with other advocates at the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s Advocate Summit

Breast cancer came as a shock. I had always been healthy – ate right, exercised, never smoked, and rarely drank alcohol. I was vigilant about doing monthly breast self-exams and had yearly mammograms. I had even breast-fed Gail for several years. And, I had no significant family history of breast cancer. So, how could this happen to me?

Following my treatment, I started to consider how many women in the Cedar Valley were going through the same thing I was going through. I also thought of all the women who will go through this – but don’t even know it yet. And I thought about my own daughter, and realized that I must do something to end this disease.

I joined the National Breast Cancer Coalition and took Project LEAD, an innovative basic science training program that trains and empowers breast cancer activists to participate as consumer advocates at every level of the research and public policy process. I came home from Project LEAD and knew I had to do something with my new-found knowledge. Twenty years later, working with others, we’ve accomplished a lot.

You ask why is Advocacy so important? It is important because cancer is a political issue. Policy makers determine almost every aspect of cancer, such as funding for cancer research, access to quality care, and regulations affecting health care systems.  That is why advocacy is so important.  My take is that the optimal approach to ending the breast cancer epidemic is problem-solving research. But just throwing money at the current system is taking too long. A large-scale impact requires us, patients/caregivers/those touched by cancer to be Advocates, because our only agenda is to reduce deaths from breast cancer.

I began by telling you about my breast cancer diagnosis, my fear, my anger, and my need as a mom to reduce deaths from this disease.  That was 24 years ago. Now I do my work so my grandchildren can grow up with a dad and their mother because every child deserves a mother. I recognize that everyone leads busy lives, with what I am sure is an already jam-packed schedule. Yet your health, and the health of all of our children and grandchildren, is at risk. We must do what we can with the time that we have to work toward stopping breast cancer from ending too many lives, too soon. Will you join me?

Christine Carpenter (second from left) stands with other Beyond Pink TEAM advocates in Washington DC.


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