The Voice of Canadians With Breast Cancer

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What More Looks Like …

By: Carmen Powell

Pink Ribbon ProjectLooking back at the 4 years we have hosted our event, the Pink Ribbon Project (PRP) is always interesting, emotional and clarifying. We can see the things we have accomplished and learned but most importantly where we can grow in our work around breast cancer.

Specifically, the past two years of hosting PRP have granted us a great opportunity to learn and adapt as an organization largely in part  to our relationship with Canadian Breast Cancer Network (CBCN). You see, my Mom has metastatic breast cancer and for the first two years as a family and as an organization we felt pretty helpless. We weren't sure what we could do to support my Mom and those living with MBC. These words I wrote for an article,  a couple years back always stick with me when I think of CBCN, “ When we first connected with CBCN, I felt like a door opened and information came pouring in, giving us direction, support and a way to take action.” Working with CBCN and using their many resources to educate ourselves and others has been a lifeline and one that we have used to shape and drive the direction of our work.

Over the past year, and particularly as we began work on Pink Ribbon Project 4, we asked ourselves a couple of big questions. How can we do more for the breast cancer community? What would “more” look like to those facing a breast cancer diagnosis or those who are living with metastatic breast cancer. We knew we needed answers to help us move forward, but those answers did not lie with any of us. And so we asked, listened, and learned ways that we could begin to do more.

One of the most clarifying answers to our wonderings came to us by way of a blog post written by Beth Caldwell, an American woman living with and advocating for metastatic breast cancer who explains that “it’s not about being part of the community that needs help, but about standing with them and using our privilege to help them.” That “an ally is someone who not just cares about a community in need, but also does something to support them. And what that something is, is what the community says it needs, not what allies think that community needs.” As we moved through planning PRP, these words shaped our thoughts and even some of our words that night. Guidance like that, coupled with information and campaigns from CBCN, talking to patients, researching, and participating in other advocacy efforts have helped us move towards becoming a strong ally for those facing breast cancer.

One of the biggest ways we can use our privilege of health is by hosting Pink Ribbon Project. It takes a team to do it and we all give of our time, energy, and experience to make it happen. Our focus remains on honouring all breast cancer experiences, as they are all unique and important; while still sharing the entire breast cancer story. That story includes metastatic breast cancer. That’s why supporting the work of CBCN is so important to us. They include all breast cancer experiences in their work and continue to ensure the best quality of life for all Canadians affected by breast cancer through education and advocacy.

We feel that our Pink Ribbon Project is unique! While it is fun, festive, sparkly and sometimes even pink; it’s an evening dedicated to telling the whole story about breast cancer, even though it’s difficult to hear. It’s just one of the ways we can start to do “more” for those living with breast cancer.  

For us, this concept of “more” is not an end, a measurable to be reached, a check box to be ticked. It’s just the beginning. We see now that “more” will evolve with our experiences with loved ones living with breast cancer and our interactions with the community. It will change in response to levels of funding for metastatic research, access to treatments, and the ever changing landscape in cancer research.

While we don’t know exactly what “more” will look like in terms of our work, we are extremely fortunate to know exactly what “more” looks like when we ask it of our community.

“More” looks like partners and sponsors who have supported us again and again, even through the uncertain times in our economy. It looks like friends who travel to be here and friends who stay late, like really late to visit with us once the work is wrapped up! It looks like the familiar faces who grace PRP every year and bring with them friends who have never been. It looks like vendors who bring our vision to life, giving of their time and talents knowing the budget is tight. “More” looks like hugs, handshakes, circles of friends, and a balance of tears and smiles.

Maybe most importantly of all, we know what “more” feels like. For those of us in the thick of it: patients, former patients, loved ones, caregivers; we get to know what “more” feels like because you keep bringing it to us every year! To me, it feels like joy, sadness, and hope intertwined. It feels like strength and support. Even though I know that we are never alone in this, for that one night I get to see "more" come together all at once and even more importantly than that, I  know that my Mom gets to experience it too!

As we close the door on another PRP, we look forward to the next and plan to spend the time between now and then looking for ways to do even more. In 4 years we have raised over $82,000 for cancer organizations and we are so excited to break the $100,000 mark next year!  We will continue to work with CBCN and other cancer organizations to maximize our impact so that we can ensure that issues faced by the community are addressed and that those facing breast cancer know that we are here to offer our  unwavering support.

Carmen Powell
Director
Full Circle Foundation for Wellness