Voices of Impact – Bridget Spence
BRIDGET SPENCE, BOSTON – Breast Cancer Survivor, Advocate
“I can honestly say: I wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for the research of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.”
“I was supported by Komen, I was empowered by Komen, and I was cared for by Komen.”
“I have been on 20 different drugs during my six-year battle with metastatic breast cancer, and every single one has been touched by a Komen for the Cure grant.”
I graduated cum laude from Boston University with a bachelor’s in International Relations in 2005. One week after my graduation from BU, I was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. I was only 21 years old and had no family history of the disease. Since my diagnosis in 2005, I have had several recurrences of my cancer and still must attend regular chemotherapy appointments. I’ve lost, and then re-grown, my hair five different times. I have been fighting every day for these past seven years. I feel sometimes like a little girl trying to be a brave big girl on this scary journey.
But I realize I am not alone. When I was first diagnosed, I was fortunate to know good people who introduced me to Breast Friends, a support group funded in part by Susan G. Komen’s Maryland Affiliate. Breast Friends was created for women under 40 – women just like me! I didn’t even know there were other women under 40 with breast cancer! Breast Friends doesn’t just offer support; they also offer education. They were the first to say, “Bridget, you should tell your story. You should go to schools and tell your story. You could save some lives.” So, you see, Komen gave me support and Komen gave me a voice.
Komen’s impact on my journey didn’t stop there. In the past seven years, I have seen 12 different doctors about this cancer, and, while every doctor saw my concerns about having babies and getting married as understandable concerns for someone in her 20s, no doctor actually took those concerns to heart. No doctor, that is, until Dr. Ann Partridge at Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Dr. Partridge never told me to “worry about that later” – she helped me take action to preserve my fertility and offered me a plan that worked around my wedding and honeymoon. She even worked with me to make sure my chemo medication wouldn’t cause hair loss, so I could look my best when I walked down the aisle. In fact, Dr. Ann Partridge’s Young Women’s Program was funded by a three-year $1.35 million Susan G. Komen for the Cure grant.
Since my diagnosis, I’ve tried to dedicate my life to raising awareness about breast health in young women because at the time of my diagnosis I was told by several medical professionals not to worry about the growing lump in my breast.
As treatments improve, more and more women and men are living very full lives while still fighting cancer. I hope I can give other metastatic cancer patients a voice! No other organization has had my back like Komen for the Cure, and now it’s time for me to return the favor. Together, we will move toward a cure. I believe we have already started moving, and I believe we are moving forward.
About the author
Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen for the Cure and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen for the Cure is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, we have invested more than $1.9 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.