Diagnosed at 49, Stage 1
Terri and Kirstin met in the summer of 2017 at a program they both applied to for scholarship, The Project LEAD Institute.
Serving separate communities as patient advocates, Terri and Kirstin bonded that summer.
Terri saw Kirstin standing at the hotel registrar checking in for the week-long conference. She noticed the lymphedema sleeve that Kirstin was wearing, walked up to her slowly and said, “Nice sleeve”.
A breast cancer friendship was forged in a singular moment.
(See our blog here to read more about lymphedema)
They spent late nights pouring over homework assignments the week of the conference.
Kirstin and Terri labored over understanding and comprehending the intense amount of breast cancer biology and information given to them during the week, and realized they had a very common goal -
Serving other breast cancer patients after both having been through the disease, Kirstin once, Terri twice, and both having had different types of breast reconstruction.
The conversations continued after the conference. Terri and Kirstin sought opportunities to share their collective energy and resources with breast cancer communities. They both applied for scholarships to the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.
Terri attended the conference previously and was accustomed to the rigors of the schedule. She promised to be Kirstin’s mentor. The two ended their days at the symposium exhausted from attending general sessions, meeting with scientist and physicians, networking with other patient advocates, and walking too many steps to count. This experience forged their friendship and determination to advocate even more.
They speak frequently on the phone about how they can help each other through advocacy work. Kirstin is a leader in the Bay Area and has immersed herself in various activities and organizations. As a member of the Board of Directors for the HERS Breast Cancer Foundation she focuses her efforts on survivor support programs and fundraising that serve breast cancer patients regardless of financial status. Kirstin has logged countless hours as an Ambassador for Bright Pink educating and empowering young women to be proactive advocates for their breast and ovarian health. In addition, she is a member of the UCSF Breast Cancer Advocacy Core. She also serves as an advisory board member of Terri’s nonprofit, DiepCFoundation.org.
Terri, having survived breast cancer twice, began her nonprofit Foundation after her second diagnosis, a double mastectomy with a successful DIEP flap breast reconstruction.
Through her research, she found that less than 25% of patients are given information about their options for breast reconstruction. She wanted to improve and change those numbers.
Her Foundation focuses on providing the necessary education and resources to empower patients to make an informed decision about reconstructing their breasts after losing them to mastectomy.
Terri is a conduit between patients and world class physicians using various social media platforms to engage a global audience about the breast reconstruction process.
Together they brainstorm and plan advocacy work to support survivors. Recently, Terri traveled to San Francisco and produced several videos with Kirstin to educate about various topics for the breast cancer community.
They are stimulated and energized by conversation about breast cancer, breast reconstruction, and ways to help survivors.
Because they have walked the walk. They are examples of what two advocates can do together to serve their community and help them through survivorship after breast cancer.
There is nothing better than lifelong friends, even if the friendship was forged in steel through breast cancer. And there you have it, a day in the life of two survivors, friends, and patient advocates.