One of the things I learned as a 2019-2020 Living Beyond Breast Cancer Young Advocate is advocacy can take many forms. In fact, there’s an entire spectrum and sometimes, we get caught up because our advocacy doesn’t look the next person’s.
No, you don’t have to be “cancer-lebrity” with thousands of followers to be an advocate. You don’t even have to be great at public speaking or understand politics.
Here are three easy ways you can be a breast cancer advocate:
- ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELF AKA PERSONAL ADVOCACY
After my bilateral mastectomy, I endured a week of craziness while my doctors went back and forth about whether or not I needed to do chemo. When a decision was made to not do chemo, I asked my medical oncologist to explain her logic and to also explain the logic for it. She scoffed at my request and told me I could do chemo “if I wanted to.” Needless to say, that was my last appointment with her.
You deserve a cancer care team that listens when you ask questions, seeks answers for your concerns and treats you as a whole person, not just a disease. Something as simple as researching your treatment options or seeking a second opinion, shows you are making decisions in support of your personal health.
- SHARE YOUR STORY AKA MEDIA ADVOCACY
As both a young breast cancer survivor and a black breast cancer survivor, it was tough for me to find women that looked like me online. So, I started a blog called Adventures of Brave Beauty and started sharing my experiences on my journey. I eventually, I found other cancer-centered blog communities like Ihadcancer.com and co-founded my own community for women of color affected by breast cancer called For the Breast of Us.
Our stories are not our own. Our words can heal those around us just by showing them they’re not on this rollercoaster alone. And every time we lend our voice to the conversation, we not only have the opportunity to educate and enlighten others, we give a face and a voice to a disease that’s often sexualized and tied in a pretty pink ribbon. Whether you join the #bcsm Twitter chat or decide to guest blog for your favorite cancer community, sharing your story is another powerful to be a breast cancer advocate.
- VOLUNTEER AKA ORGANIZATIONAL ADVOCACY
In 2018, my mom and I attended our first Young Survival Coalition Summit. Every year, there’s a dance party during the weekend and every year I’m moved as I look out on the dance floor of women who’ve gone through so much, but for one weekend they’re not the odd girl out. For one weekend, they’re surrounded by love and laughter and a sea of other women who just get it. After my first YSC Summit, I was determined to bring that energy back to my hometown in Jacksonville, FL. So, I registered to be a volunteer State Leader and a face-to-face group coordinator.
Many of your favorite cancer charities will have opportunities for you to connect your local community to their national resources. My best advice for those interested in this route is to seek balance and make sure you’re far enough out from treatment that you’re comfortable and well enough to remain personally engaged with the cancer community.
Being a breast cancer advocate starts at home by advocating for yourself and can expand as you become comfortable sharing your story and even connecting your community to national resources. You don’t need access to anything or anyone special. Just start with what you have and who you know because in the words of former President Barack Obama, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
By Jasmine Dionne Souers @bravebeauty26, co-founder of For the Breast of Us @forthebreastofus, Tigerlily ANGEL Advocate