My name is Ashley and in January 2012 I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 28 years old. I had no major risk factors and cancer was the last thing I thought I would be dealing with at my age. In fact, I didn’t even know that breast cancer could happen to women in their twenties!
I did the usual treatment protocol that the majority seems to do when dealing with this awful disease… mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and now Tamoxifen. And throughout this crazy roller coaster ride of an experience, I met many more women in their twenties and thirties diagnosed with breast cancer. In fact, I was startled by the number of cases and soon began burying myself in data and statistics wondering how this was even happening.
It was soon clear to me that compared to post-menopausal women, younger women generally face more aggressive forms of breast cancer and have lower survival rates. More and more evidence tells us that breast cancer before age 40 differs biologically from the cancer faced by older women. But, there were no real answers as to WHY. A lot of funds have been raised for what I like to call “damage control” research… but what I wanted to see were studies looking at what started the disease in the first place.
In my opinion, true action towards a future without breast cancer does not occur through more awareness campaigns and I wondered why the root of the problem was not being made a priority. When I learned that fewer than 5% of funds raised goes towards prevention research, I felt sick. We are told that if we exercise, don’t smoke, don’t drink excessively and eat right, we can lower our risk. But women are taking these preventative actions and are STILL getting breast cancer.
When a fellow breast cancer friend shared the Army of Women website with me, I practically leapt on board. It took me several months from my diagnosis to discover the great work being done by the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, but once I did, I felt there was real progress being made and was eager to invest my time by becoming a member.
One of the great things about the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation’s Love/Avon Army of Women program and Health of Woman Study is that anyone can get involved and it doesn’t cost volunteers a thing. I felt hopeful, proud and empowered that I could join the Army of Women’s Breast Cancer Risk in Young Women Study and know that I am making a difference. Knowing that my contribution may someday help us better understand why breast cancer is happening in young woman (and all women for that matter) is an amazing feeling.
Because I feel so passionate about the work that the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation is doing through the Army of Women and the HOW Study, I realize the importance of action. I have volunteered in studies, completed questionnaires, spread the word via social media, had friends and family sign up and also shared it on my personal blog.
I don’t know if I am changing my own outcome by taking action with this extraordinary team, but I KNOW I am making a difference for all women in the future.