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  • 31 Days of Impact – Day 23, Dr. Riccardo Masetti

    The story of breast cancer is the story of people. Learn about Komen’s impact and work in the fight against breast cancer as told through the eyes of breast cancer survivors, researchers, community health workers and advocates. Read more stories.

    DR. RICCARDO MASETTI, ROME, ITALY – Physician, Advocate, Global Health Ambassador

    “Beyond the borders of Italy, there still are many countries with very limited resources – helping improve the treatment of cancer in these countries is extremely important to me.”

    “In 2010, women of reproductive age (ages 15-49) in developing countries made up 23 percent of the global total of breast cancer cases, meaning there are now twice as many women under 50 with breast cancer in the developing world than in developed countries.”

    “My goal is to work alongside Komen, as we continue to fight breast cancer on a global scale.”

    In 2000, when I had the opportunity to start Komen Italia, my goal was to increase awareness about breast cancer in my country – as education is one of the major challenges surrounding breast cancer globally. We were inspired by, and worked toward, the great achievements of the Komen model, such as the Race for the Cure, which in the United States has motivated women to stand up and speak openly about breast cancer. Over the past 12 years, I’m proud to say, Komen Italia has grown to be one of the leading organizations in breast health advocacy and education in Italy.

    However, beyond the borders of Italy, there still are many countries with very limited resources – helping improve the treatment of cancer in these countries is extremely important to me.

    I have a busy life with my wife and children, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Rome, and my work at the Catholic University where I serve as the head of the Breast Surgical Unit. But, I will always find time to dedicate to the international initiatives that I’m passionate about. In 2010, women of reproductive age (ages 15-49) in developing countries made up 23 percent of the global total of breast cancer cases, meaning there are now twice as many women under 50 with breast cancer in the developing world than in developed countries.

    This jarring reality has encouraged me to become a Global Health Ambassador for Komen. My global work has allowed me to serve as a chair for a breast program of the Euro-Arab School of Oncology, which was created to advance the fight against cancer in the Arab world. I have also served on the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Breast Health Global Initiative, and I am currently serving as senior medical director of the HopeXchange Ghana Health Project, a collaborative international effort aimed at increasing healthcare capacity in sub-Saharan Africa.

    We are working very hard in Ghana. In 2010, we completed the construction of a new hospital in the city of Kumsai, Ghana, and we were able to establish the first breast cancer International Learning Laboratory there – a collaboration of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, BHGI, the Ghana Breast Cancer Alliance, and HopeXchange.

    The original idea was a small mission hospital, and it is turning into something much greater.  We are working on a comprehensive model of intervention to help increase healthcare capacities in sub-Saharan Africa.  This model can be replicated in other countries of limited resources in order to improve access to quality healthcare for women who are in dire need. My goal is to work alongside Komen, as we continue to fight breast cancer on a global scale.

    Read other impact stories.

  • 31 Days of Impact – Day 22, Dr. Ann Partridge

    The story of breast cancer is the story of people. Learn about Komen’s impact and work in the fight against breast cancer as told through the eyes of breast cancer survivors, researchers, community health workers and advocates. Read more stories.

    Ann H. Partridge, MD, MPH
    Founder and Director, Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer
    Director, Adult Survivorship Program and Lance Armstrong Foundation Clinic
    Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

    “Young breast cancer patients have sort of a double-whammy: they have worse disease on average, and because of their unique psychosocial issues, including concerns about fertility, they also tend to experience more distress.”

    “We know from research and clinical experience that younger women have a harder time with a breast cancer diagnosis than older women. Parenting and work responsibilities aren’t easily shifted to someone else.”

    What first motivated me to focus both my scientific research and my clinical practice on breast cancer in younger women was just seeing the enormous gap in what we know and what we can do for younger women compared to women who are diagnosed in their 50s or 60s, which is where most breast cancer cases tend to occur.  As a relatively young investigator myself, seeing the needs that were not being met for women my age and younger made a deep impression on me.  I knew this was a niche that I could fill and feel passionate about—one that could potentially make a big impact on women’s lives.

    When young women are diagnosed with breast cancer they suffer not only the usual challenges of the disease, they also face challenges that are unique to, or accentuated by, the very fact that they are so young.  For women in their 40s and younger, those challenges often include genetic issues and how this affects treatment decisions as well as fertility concerns because so many haven’t yet completed their families.  Some of the younger women haven’t even started dating yet, or found the person that ultimately they’ll settle down with, if that’s in their future.

    When a young woman comes to see me, she’s often like a deer in the headlights—especially when there’s no history of breast cancer in her family. Though she may have many friends, she may not have a support network to help her cope with the realities of cancer diagnosis and treatment. Who’s going to help a young college student get to and from chemo appointments while her parents are half-way across the country?  By contrast, breast cancer patients in their 50s and 60s are usually established in life and have partners and supportive friends and family who’ve been a part of their lives across many milestones.

    Fertility is also a big concern.  Every day I hear someone say, “I can deal with the breast cancer, it’s the idea that I might not be able to have children that I can’t stand.”  Our work is focused on helping these women cope with their diagnosis, and it’s also about studying options to preserve fertility or help women to make treatment and fertility decisions that make having a child a possibility in the future.

    The challenges facing young women with breast cancer are being studied and addressed through research grants including one funded by an historic collaboration between The Conquer Cancer Foundation®, ASCO, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure®. Komen alone is providing $10 million in support of projects and programs designed to improve the quality of cancer care. It is such an honor and I’m so grateful that my work and the work of my colleagues at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is being supported by some of the most innovative new grants addressing real-life issues in cancer care today. That’s also a reason I am part of the Komen Scholars – so I can be on the frontlines of the scientific review process for such an important organization like Komen.

    My dream has turned into a dynamic and comprehensive multidisciplinary program that truly addresses the unique needs of young women with breast cancer and improves how we treat women and their disease.  It’s hard to imagine anything more exciting or hopeful.

    Read other impact stories.

     

     

  • 31 Days of Impact – Day 21, Mark Goldstein

    The story of breast cancer is the story of people. Learn about Komen’s impact and work in the fight against breast cancer as told through the eyes of breast cancer survivors, researchers, community health workers and advocates. Read more stories.

    MARK GOLDSTEIN, NEW JERSEY– Breast Cancer Survivor, Conqueror and Advocate

    “Running amongst a sea of pink, survivors and supporters were surprised to see me running and I told them, “I’m just like you! I’ve gone through surgery, chemo and radiation, too!”

    “Susan G. Komen has given me the ability to reach thousands of men and women at Races around the country and the world to help and inspire them in their own breast cancer journey.”

    “Men should not die from breast cancer out of ignorance and it is my honor to help, educate and inspire my fellow fighters, survivors and conquerors.”

    I’ve dealt and overcome multiple episodes with skin cancer in my lifetime, yet in February, 1988, when I noticed something more unusual with my left nipple – it began pulling inward – in typical male fashion, I did nothing!  Only until three months had passed did I finally figure out that something other than skin cancer might be going on. I had breast cancer; I never thought I’d have to worry about breast cancer as a 55-year-old man.

    My mammogram results were inconclusive and after seeing three doctors locally, I proceeded to seek out a male breast cancer specialist in New York City. I can’t tell you how much empathy I felt for women.  She advised that I have the lump removed, rather than do a biopsy, so we went ahead with the surgery and I was hopeful that all would go smoothly. This was in May of 1988, and following the procedure I continued with my life mindful I still had a fight ahead but in no way, shape or form was I feeling defeated. In fact, the day I was discharged from the hospital, I made my first act of defiance, I mowed the lawn and throughout my entire course of treatment I never missed a day of work.

    In September of 1992, I came to the “Race for the Cure” by way of rejection. I signed up my family for the New York City Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. We arrived early that morning wearing our t-shirts and race numbers and to my disbelief, I was told that I couldn’t run because I was a man and the Race was “for women only!” Things have changed a lot since then – running amongst a female sea of pink, survivors and supporters were surprised to see me running and I told them, “I’m just like you! I went through surgery, chemo and radiation, too!” It was a real turning point for me and my family. Having never run any more than for a commuter train or in an airport terminal, I wanted to race in more Races, bring more awareness to men and the disease – and with Komen, as a Komen Ambassador to the Race for the Cure series, we’ve made this mission possible.

    I’m in the fourth quarter of my life and what better way to spend that, than to try to serve your fellow “man.” I’m a person of “faith.” I believe God has put me on this path, not pushing me, just gently nudging me along the way as opportunities arise.

    To date, I’ve run in 223 Races visiting Komen Race for the Cure events across the country and around the world to share my story and give a voice to other men fighting this disease. In 2003, I was named as one of the Yoplait 25 Champions for my contribution to breast cancer awareness and advocacy. In 2005, I was honored by Susan G. Komen and the National Distance Running Hall of Fame with the fourth annual Suzy Komen Award and featured as one of several runners in Runners World’s 2006 “Heroes of Running” issue.

    Men should not die from breast cancer out of ignorance and it is my honor to help, educate and inspire my fellow fighters, survivors and conquerors.

    Please visit my website and give me a hug at our next “Race for the Cure.”

     Read other impact stories.

  • 31 Days of Impact – Day 20, Dr. Beverly Laird

    The story of breast cancer is the story of people. Learn about Komen’s impact and work in the fight against breast cancer as told through the eyes of breast cancer survivors, researchers, community health workers and advocates. Read more stories.

    BEVERLY LAIRD, PhD, ALABAMA– Breast Cancer Survivor and Advocate

    “Komen Advocates in Science are taking strides to bring to the forefront patient issues that inevitably can help us understand breast cancer better – on a community, science and systematic level.”

    “As a breast cancer survivor, I am so grateful to help other women find local resources to assist in their own fight with this disease.”

     

    I was only 39 years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer; I had no idea what was going to happen, but I knew I had the support of a wonderful husband.  I was mostly worried about our three young children and just wanted to live to see them grow up.

    Not knowing a lot about breast cancer or what it meant for a young woman like me, I started talking to other women fighting this disease in my community. One lady had a shop that sold wigs, breast forms and other products; we started talking and she asked me to come with her to Brookwood Hospital to hear a woman speak about breast cancer. I agreed and from that day forward I was involved with Komen. That woman was Nancy Brinker.

    I felt empowered to make a difference for all the other women battling breast cancer, and with two other survivors, I began work that would become the Susan G. Komen for the Cure North Central Alabama Affiliate. Over the years I’ve served on the board and continue to be involved.Often I will meet with various researchers to keep the Affiliate connected to what is happening in the scientific community locally. I also have a special place in my heart for those who are diagnosed young, and there are three or four women right now that I consider my “breast cancer daughters.” All were diagnosed in their 20’s and I do whatever I can to help them.

    Having breast cancer also inspired me to go back to school – something I’d always wanted to do – and I earned a doctorate in public health; my dissertation research focused on the essential components of psychosocial care for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients.This expertise and my passion for advocacy have allowed me to be a part of so many terrific programs. I am the co-founder of the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) Young Survivors’ Group in Birmingham and have been a coordinator and trainer for Reach to Recover (RTR). I have been honored to serve on the National Cancer Institute’s Director’s Consumer Liaison Group, making sure that funding was available and was directed in ways that are meaningful to real patients.

    This past May, I spoke on behalf of the Komen Advocates in Science, as well as breast cancer patients, survivors, and co-survivors at the Inaugural FDA Patient Network Annual Meeting in Silver Spring, MD. I addressed the value that patient perspectives provide for scientific dialogue, the critical step to understand the disease on a patient’s whole lifestyle, as well as the patient perception and evaluation of risks associated with medical treatment.

    Having breast cancer has opened a lot of doors to me to help better women’s health and our world at large – one day we will be free of this disease.

    Read other impact stories.

  • 31 Days of Impact – Day 19, Michael Ziener

    The story of breast cancer is the story of people. Learn about Komen’s impact and work in the fight against breast cancer as told through the eyes of breast cancer survivors, researchers, community health workers and advocates. Read more stories.

    MICHAEL ZIENER, CHICAGO – Co-Survivor and Advocate

    “It never ceases to amaze me how fierce the true fighting spirit of breast cancer survivors can be.  Sure, there are down days and down times, but this fight will be won.  There’s not a doubt in my mind.”

    “Cancer has claimed the lives of the people I loved most in this world, the people who gave me life.  For them, and for each person whose life has been crushed by this disease, I will work, walk, race, talk, give … do whatever it takes to help end breast cancer forever.”

    “We’re men, women, children, all fighting for a cause that’s so much bigger than we are, but still somehow defines us to our very core.”

    Being a man in a pink world is actually quite interesting; first of all, I sure have a lot of pink ties. As Executive Director of the Chicagoland Area Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, I also have a somewhat unique perspective on our organization and how we attack and approach this disease.  It’s not just a woman’s disease; it’s a man’s disease too, because there are about 2,300 or so cases of male breast cancer diagnosed each year.  But we men are also affected by the disease when we lose our wives, our daughters, our mothers, sisters and our friends.  This perspective is important.

    When I was nine years old, my mom passed away from breast cancer—she was only 39.  My dad walked into my room one day and said, “Son, I have to talk to you.”  I remember that I went into a sort of slow-motion state of shock.  I can remember the things that were on the countertop, the type of weather it was, and then my dad actually sitting there saying, “Mike, I just wanted to let you know that Mommy’s sickness … it really got a little bit more serious last night, and … she passed away.”

    Those words just changed how my life was going to be from that moment on.  My fight started right then, and it feels like breast cancer has been a part of my life ever since.  In my role as head of Chicago’s Komen affiliate, I get a chance to win the fight a little bit every single day.  It’s a win when I stand in front of 1,800 women at a conference sharing the story of what happened to my mother and it touches someone else. It’s a win when her story, her life, travels through my words and motivates someone in that crowd enough to go and get a mammogram.  That is my goal.

    The wins keep me going.  When we’re able to save a life, when our grants help a single mom on the south side of Chicago get her mammogram, or follow-up exam, or access to treatment if she’s diagnosed,  when that happens, I know—and my mom knows too—that we have made a difference. We’ve had an impact. We are winning the fight.

    From my point of view, we’re all fighters.  We’re fighting for ourselves, for our friends, for our parents, and for our communities.  I fight for my mother, and my mother’s mother, who died of breast cancer before I knew her.  I fight for my father’s mother who died of breast cancer before I knew her. And I fight in honor of my father, who battled five different cancers (two stage IV cancers of different types), who just last month lost his arduous battle with metastatic prostate cancer – 24 years battling this nasty disease after he lost his wife to cancer.  I am now 39 years old, the age my mother past away. In this year, I had to explain the very same message my father told me as a child to my 3 year old regarding his grandfather. I’m one man who will never give up the fight.

    View a day in the life of Michael Ziener and learn how the Komen Chicagoland Affiliate is fighting breast cancer.

    Read other impact stories.