What does community look like?

LBBC Viewpoints
September 30, 2020
Jean Sachs, CEO

October is here and, as we do every year, our team is preparing for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But 2020 is not like every year, and Living Beyond Breast Cancer is not like every organization.

Like all of you, we have had to redefine ourselves in a changed world. That means asking our staff and all those who support us what Living Beyond Breast Cancer needs to do to bring you the programs, services, and support you deserve in the midst of a global pandemic, civil unrest, and unprecedented division. When we can’t physically look each other in the eye to feel our common humanity, what does community look like

We turned to our roots. At Living Beyond Breast Cancer, we believe community begins with your stories. Sharing personal experiences builds empathy, compassion, and understanding. It allows every person to voice their unique perspective while building respect for our differences. It recognizes there is more than one way to see the circumstances of breast cancer. And it supports our belief that the breast cancer community is stronger together than any of us could be on our own.

Community looks like a newly diagnosed woman messaging with someone diagnosed 10 years ago to ask about the side effects of tamoxifen. An older woman thinking of her younger self as she guides a recently diagnosed person on our Helpline. A grandmother reading one of our Reading for Reassurance books at bedtime, while Mom is recovering in the other room. Community looks like your story.

This October, Living Beyond Breast Cancer shares the experiences that are often missing from the typical narrative of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We’ll kick it off with our new workshop series, Knowledge is power: Understanding Black breast cancer. This program addresses the unique challenges Black people face when diagnosed with a disease that kills them at a significantly higher rate than their white peers.

For Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day, on Oct. 13, the 2020 class of Hear My Voice metastatic advocates—trained virtually, for the first time ever—leads our community in a social media campaign, #4forStageIV, to educate the public about what it’s like to live with mets. Contributors will represent the experiences of the more than 168,000 Americans we know are living with metastatic disease.

Our efforts culminate the weekend of Oct. 24-25, when our community will gather online for Wellness & Wisdom: Living Beyond Breast Cancer Conference, where chat rooms serve as an entryway into sessions that help people of all ages, stages, and racial and ethnic backgrounds to share, learn, reflect and connect. Two keynote sessions explore bridging gaps among our disparate communities, through the individual experiences that bring us together.

What does community look like? It looks like a woman diagnosed during COVID-19 who goes to her first chemotherapy treatment alone but finds support and encouragement in one of our closed Facebook groups. It looks like a man waiting to have his lump examined in the radiology department, staring at the walls covered in pink and searching for a familiar face.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is also about supporting our community. To make our work happen, we have called on our donors to support Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s vision of a world where no one impacted by breast cancer feels uninformed or alone. Despite the economic challenges, our funders – from foundations to corporations to individuals – stand strongly next to us and beside you. Their financial support during the dark early days of the pandemic ensured we could continue to deliver on the promises we make to all of you. And this October, a variety of corporate partners continue to join with us to elevate stories and celebrate our diverse community.

For Living Beyond Breast Cancer and for all of you, Breast Cancer Awareness Month does not end on Oct. 31. That’s why we’ll honor our resilient breast cancer community at Strength in Stories, a virtual celebration from 5:00 to 6:00 pm (ET) on Nov. 7.

After, we will continue to work toward our vision. Because although much has been accomplished, we recognize there is so much more to do. As we look to 2021, which marks Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s 30th anniversary, we invite you to join us in sharing stories and experiences that enrich, enliven, and empower our community to face change. Here are some actions you can take today:

Thank you for joining our community and for believing in our vision. We look forward to being with you in October and beyond.