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#WhenYouSeeUs: Reflections on 5 Years of For the Breast of Us

Real Talk

May 16, 2024

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by The Bezzy Editorial Team

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by The Bezzy Editorial Team

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Five years is significant in the breast cancer community. This organization, which is dedicated to supporting Black and brown women, has made important strides in that time frame.

In the cancer community, 5 years is a big milestone.

It’s the time frame used for survival rates, but it’s also a time of reflection for many about how diagnosis and treatment have changed us over the years.

That same sentiment can be extended to For the Breast of Us (FTBOU), an organization that launched in May 2019 and has grown and evolved in significant ways since then.

As I reflect and celebrate the theme of ”thriving at five,” I feel grateful and empowered by this group. We started as a means to bring Black and brown women with breast cancer together. Now we’re poised to move into the future with a solid foundation.

Here are some of the key aspects that I appreciate most.

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Growing our reach

From the start, we were flooded with stories from women of color across the country who were eager to share and be heard.

Initially, our site had about 50 of those stories. Over the past 5 years, we’ve featured so many more.

Seeing that desire for connection, we started an ambassador program with about 20 women from across the country, all diagnosed at different stages. They have been a huge part of our growth.

Not only do our ambassadors connect with other women online. They’re in their communities and at conferences and fundraisers.

They’re starting conversations that are so needed and important.

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The essence of our work

FTBOU relies on three pillars for its operation: advocacy, community, and education.

To drive those, we created a program called Making spACE to acknowledge those pillars and strengthen them through action.

Advocacy

That involves creating tools and resources for women of color who are patient advocates. We’re building a community for them here so they can reach out to the communities where they are.

Education

In terms of education, we’re raising money and awarding grants to finance advocate training.

There are many women who would love to become advocates or strengthen their skills in that area if they’re already doing advocacy work. However, training can be out of reach due to travel and lodging expenses. We want to help ease that concern so more women can get trained and make an impact.

That affects all of us because our advocacy work addresses the disparities within the healthcare system, moving us toward equitable access to care and meaningful representation in research.

Community

We’re connecting women of color and providing support and encouragement when it’s needed most. We’re also working to move our community toward healthcare equity.

To fund this and other initiatives, we officially launched a nonprofit arm in October 2023 to make it easier to donate to FTBOU and our work. The nonprofit arm is where Making spACE will be, and those financial grants will come from that fund.

Providing needed funds to women with breast cancer

Another aspect of the nonprofit is providing grants to women who are going through treatment and need additional funds for everyday expenses. We call this the In Purpose, On Purpose Memorial Scholarship.

Navigating cancer is tough enough — when you add financial challenges, it’s even harder. We want to provide some relief so women can focus on healing and be less stressed.

Donations provide funding to previvors, survivors, and thrivers to directly address the economic impact of cancer treatment. Funds can also go toward educational pursuits or professional opportunities so recipients can continue or return to studies or career tracks.

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Widening our circle

In the past few years, we’ve also recognized that there are many breast cancer organizations already doing the kind of work we’d like to include.

Rather than trying to replicate that, we’ve made strategic partnerships so we can collaborate effectively.

For example, we partnered with Unite for Her to bring their focus on wellness, like healthy cooking and exercise, to the FTBOU community.

When I was diagnosed in 2015, I had no idea this type of information was available for people with breast cancer. With this partnership, we can make sure Black and brown women have access to these resources.

It’s completely free to tap into services like nutritional counseling and cooking education.

We’ve also collaborated with The Missing Pink Breast Cancer Alliance in their mission to advance health equity for people of color affected by breast cancer and Living Beyond Breast Cancer, a group with community-building resources.

Takeaway

All of these efforts combine to make FTBOU stronger and able to continue serving women of color who need ample resources to thrive through survivorship.

We may already have 5 years of growth behind us, but in some ways, there’s so much more to do. I’m looking forward to what comes next.

This is When You See Us, a series in partnership with our friends at For the Breast of Us, highlighting the experiences of women of color in the breast cancer community. Together, we believe that hearing the stories of women who look like you and can relate to your experiences has the power to foster community, resiliency, and hope.

Fact checked on May 16, 2024

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