Strength in Stories: The Transformative Power of Talking About Breast Cancer

For the last quarter of a century, Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC), a national non-profit based in Philadelphia, has changed the narrative for women with breast cancer. The mission of the organization and its CEO, Jean Sachs, is that no woman feel alone or uninformed in her journey through diagnosis and treatment. The many channels of support have changed the story of over 600,000 people in LBBC’s community last year.

The annual Butterfly Ball is one of LBBC’s largest annual events, which raises much-needed funds to support their work providing those impacted by breast cancer with trusted information and a community of support. At this year’s event, the Donna Noce Colaco Going Beyond Award was presented to Jamil Rivers, Susan S. Swanson and Molly Weingart, all of whom shared their personal experience with breast cancer to help and inspire others. The crowd of over 500 left the room in awe of their strength.

Swanson talked frankly about her choice to participate in a phase one clinical trial. Knowing to ask about and consider participating in research can dramatically change the course of treatment for every person and patient who seeks care after them. New, better and more targeted solutions require ongoing trials and willing patients in order to discover how to end this battle against breast cancer—but only seven percent of research funding focuses on metastatic breast cancer, “the kind that kills you,” Swanson noted.

Weingart, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 34, shared that she “created art where before there had only been destruction,” and chose to have stunning flower tattoos cover her mastectomy surgery scars.

Rivers faced her own diagnosis after her husband survived cancer twice, and while caring for her three young sons. During chemotherapy, she kept working and was even promoted. She now advocates for others at a local and national political level to change the conversation about finding appropriate care.

The Founders Award, LBBC’s highest honor, was presented to Gerianne DiPiano for her visionary leadership as a pharmaceutical executive turned entrepreneur, and her incredible support of LBBC and the community. Her company, FemmePharma, changes the equation about research with a focus on women and has developed effective products to manage menopausal symptoms that improves quality of life.

The founder talked about how we need to pay it forward for women by women.

I recently lost my mentor to metastatic breast cancer, and I wish there had been more treatment choices for her. But until there is a cure for everyone, I take solace in knowing that LBBC will be offering love, support and information at critical times to the folks who need it most.

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Lisa Niver is the author of Brave-ish, One Breakup, Six Continents and Feeling Fearless After Fifty and an award-winning travel expert who has explored 101 countries and six continents. She has articles in publications from AARP: The Magazine and AAA Explorer to WIRED and Wharton Magazine, as well as her site We Said Go Travel. For her print, podcast, digital and broadcast segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist 22 times. Niver is also the host of the award-nominated podcast Make Your Own Map.