Komen’s Travel Scholarships Make A Difference at C4YW

Guest post by Jacqueline McKnight, Scientific Programs Specialist at Susan G. Komen

I recently attended the final C4YW, the Conference for Young Women Affected by Breast Cancer.  This amazing conference has been organized by Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) and the Young Survival Coalition (YSC) for 13 years.  Since 2008, Susan G. Komen has provided sustained support as Lead Sponsor by funding the travel scholarship program. Over the years Komen funding has helped over 2,200 young survivors attend the conference.

The conference offered a variety of scientific and quality of life issues that uniquely face young survivors such as family planning options, breast reconstruction, talking to your children about your diagnosis and balancing career, family and treatment.  There were also many opportunities for networking and time to have fun including the Saturday night dance party or Sunday morning Party in Pink Zumba event.

Komen had a vibrant presence throughout the conference.  Our Chief Mission Officer, Chandini Portteus, offered an overview of Komen’s commitment to young women ranging from research to the work of our Komen Scholars and our partnership with Zumba. In the exhibit hall, Komen Affiliate members from Central Florida and Philadelphia joined with headquarters’ staff to provide fun and educational materials. Additionally, attendees included members and constituents of several Komen Affiliates and at least two Advocates in Science members.

Attendees Gwendolyn and Tanya came by the Komen booth Friday afternoon.  Watching the two of them, I assumed they were life-long friends or maybe even sisters.  When I asked how they knew each other, they shared their story, at times speaking in unison, at others speaking over each other to make sure I was getting the most salient points.  Gwendolyn and Tanya met at C4YW in 2008. Recipients of Komen travel scholarships, they arranged to share a hotel room through the C4YW travel board.  They became fast friends and have attended the conference together ever since.  Their friendship transcends cancer and C4YW – they speak on the phone and have visited each other’s homes in different cities.  This year, it was especially important for the two women reunite at C4YW because Tanya recently found out that her cancer returned and metastasized.  Telling their story, Gwendolyn and Tanya laughed, cried, and laughed some more.

This has always been the essence of C4YW and one of the reasons that I am so proud that Komen supported the conference for the past six years.  First year attendees are often heartbroken by their diagnoses, overwhelmed by the information and often hesitant because it seems oxymoronic to enjoy a conference about breast cancer.  There are tears, and there is anger at the injustice of a diagnosis of breast cancer so early in life, but there is also joy. My wish is that all of the attendees at this year’s C4YW were cleansed by their tears, embraced their joy and turned their anger into passionate advocacy for themselves and others like them.  And I hope that every attendee at C4YW found her Tanya or her Gwendolyn – a true friend, a supporter who understands what she is going through and a hand to hold while navigating the journey.

About the author

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Susan G. Komen has written 280 articles for Susan G. Komen® | Blog

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 and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen 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.