As most people do this time of year I’ve been spending the last few days thinking about the past year. The pace of my life just seemed to accelerate with each month culminating with the last six weeks of non-stop activity and travel, as I took on a full-time job for the first time in 17 years. I am commuting back and forth between Washington D.C. and Cincinnati as Director of Research Programs for the National Breast Cancer Coalition. It has taken a toll, as my husband and three kids have had to adjust, and as I have felt the consequences of the stress. I have to confess it would be easy to stop. I’d have time again to go to the gym. I would always be here for my kid’s concerts, games, and poetry slams. I would not have to hear my daughter say “I don’t like it when you go away” as I am dragging my suitcase to the car, or my son, “Are you leaving AGAIN?”
But like every one of you out there who has chosen to be a breast cancer advocate, I can’t stop. We all make sacrifices because we have HOPE. HOPE that what we are doing will help in some small way to lessen the suffering and ultimately lead to eradicating this disease. Some of you use your vacation days to attend research or advocacy conferences. You leave your families and arrange babysitters so you can be reviewers on breast cancer research panels. You use your free time to serve on clinical trial review boards. You follow the research and write newsletter articles. You provide support and education for women and families in your communities.
We all have hope that things can change. Breast cancer has continued to take a serious toll on families for way too long. In some cases it is the disease, and in some cases it is the treatment for the disease that continues to lead to losses for too many.
I have a dream that in 2020, when we are looking back at the decade, we will be celebrating major progress in breast cancer. Dramatic improvements have occurred with other diseases, like heart disease and cervical cancer. Why not breast cancer? We will look back at the decade and say, wow, breast cancer deaths were cut in half!
How do we get there? By every one of us continuing to do what we do. Getting informed. Understanding the science. Getting involved. Pushing for innovation. Advocating for the right research.
The first six weeks of my new job was dominated by the new screening guidelines. There was such an incredible reaction and backlash. Now it’s time to move on. I’m dreaming that the passion and interest in breast cancer can be harnessed to drive real progress. I’m hoping that we can all agree that our work is not yet done, that sometimes early detection is not enough, that too many women continue to die from breast cancer, that we need much more progress to understand this complicated disease, and that we need much, much more than more mammography.
So in 2010, and through the next decade, I have hope that we will move the dialogue beyond screening and mammography, that we will push research in the right direction, that progress will be made, and that lives will be saved.
Happy New Year to all of you.