Making an Impact: A Q&A with Ishiuan Hargrove
After she was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer, Ishiuan Hargrove, 42, of Lakeland, Florida, developed a passion for cancer advocacy and outreach.
She worked as a medical physicist, a healthcare professional who researches, plans and tests radiation therapy treatment and technology to diagnose cancer. Ishiuan decided to use her experience to inspire others to support organizations and events that help people affected by the disease.
She’s participated in Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure events; raised over $85,000 for Young Survival Coalition’s Tour de Pink (her team name was “I Ride 4 Her”); and attended the Reach to Recovery International Breast Conference several times.
In 2013, Ishiuan learned the breast cancer spread to her lung. By 2014, she had developed brain metastases.
Ishiuan attended the 2014 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium as an Alamo Breast Cancer Foundation scholarship advocate, where she learned about the latest research. This spring, she completed training for LBBC’s Hear My Voice: Metastatic Breast Cancer Outreach Program, which took place at the Ninth Annual Conference for Women Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer in Philadelphia.
Ishiuan sat down with LBBC’s digital media specialist Josh Fernandez to talk about her experience in the program, her interest in sharing her story with others, and more.
Talking about your experience is important for advocacy and outreach. Why do you share your story?
It paints a picture for others, especially those who are not metastatic, about what it is like to live with this disease. But I also think there are a lot of personal benefits to sharing your story with others. I initially got started by writing in a blog for family, friends and myself. I started it to leave a footprint of my experience to share with others, especially my kids.
You end up creating your own support community by sharing your story. As someone with metastatic breast cancer, I’ve found that some people may be afraid to begin new friendships with you because they fear getting attached to you and then losing you. After attending the 2014 Annual Conference for Women Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer, I met seven women with whom I formed an online group, “Mets Warriors,” where we write to each other via email. Two women from that group have since passed away. It’s hard, and we know that may be a reality, yet still we embrace our friendship. It helps to make you feel less alone.
You are active with a number of breast cancer organizations like LBBC and Young Survival Coalition. What other breast cancer organizations or groups have you participated in or served?
While on medical leave after treatment in 2007, I traveled to Taiwan—my birthplace—and eventually got involved with the Taiwan Breast Cancer Alliance. I became an advocate and consultant for them, helping them translate resources from English to Chinese and using my medical background to help produce educational films about breast cancer. I was appointed as an international counselor by TBCA in 2009.
In April, I learned that I was selected as one of the reviewers to sit on the Department of Defense Research Grant Review Board this summer. With this opportunity I can help determine where to direct government grants to fund research that could have an impact on the breast cancer community.
Why did you participate in LBBC’s Hear My Voice program?
I learned about the program through your e-newsletter, and thought it would be an opportunity to learn about doing more patient advocacy. I attended last year’s conference and learned helpful information and made friends. I thought I’d take my conference experience this year to the next level, and attend the Hear My Voice training to learn how to take more action.
What did you like most about the program?
What I liked most about the training was walking into the room and being instantly inspired by the 31 other women who were passionate and energized to do advocacy and outreach for others in our community. It’s impressive to be able to get together and hear each other’s voices.
What advice do you have for someone with metastatic breast cancer who wants to get involved in outreach opportunities?
I think everyone needs to first start by having a supportive group for themselves. Having that support helps you cope with this diagnosis, which then helps get you in the mindset of doing the best outreach and volunteer work you can do. You also have to be willing to be social and you have to be a good listener. Then you volunteer in person or speak at an event, talk with others and share your story.