For the past few years, Aerie has been partnering with Bright Pink, a national non-profit organization focused on the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women. Meet Jocelyn L., a Bright Pink Ambassador from Chicago, IL. Read on to learn more about how Jocelyn got involved with the organization and why it is important for young women to be proactive with their health.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Jocelyn and I live in Chicago, Illinois. I am twenty nine years old and I work at a downtown Chicago firm as a fire protection engineer. In my free time I love knitting, running, and cooking with my husband Tim! We also love craft beer, and exploring all our great city has to offer.
How did you hear about/ get involved with Bright Pink?
My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 at the age of 27. At her gentle prodding, I finally began regularly seeing an OB/GYN who recommended I look into Bright Pink based on my family history. I put it on the back burner for awhile and then began to use it as a resource after my sister passed away, looking for information about my high risk. Because my sister was positive for the BRCA2 genetic mutation, I eventually met with a genetics counselor and was tested myself. After testing positive, I underwent the regimen of increased screening, and ultimately had a prophylactic double mastectomy in 2012. I remember distinctly after finding out I was BRCA2 positive, looking for people like me–people who didn’t have cancer, but those who were still at high risk. It’s a group that is very much a middle ground, people who are aware of their risk and what it means, but with the time and knowledge to do something about it. I was hungry for information during that time, and Bright Pink was a great resource for me.
Who has been the most important influence in your life?
My sister has been the most influential person of my life. I always looked up to my big sister growing up and as an adult valued her advice and opinions above all. Seeing her struggle with breast cancer, and ultimately succumbing to the disease in 2011 was the push I needed to become more involved in Bright Pink and to truly take care of myself. I would be foolish to see how serious the disease is and see her life cut short and not learn lessons from her experience. She’s still with me every day helping me navigate through life. I miss being able to talk to her, but I know she would be proud of my decisions.
Why is it important for girls/women to become educated in breast/ovarian health?
I think it’s important because it’s our bodies, and no one knows them like us. If we don’t take control then we passively wait to see what happens. Growing up when women in my family were diagnosed with breast cancer, I always imagined that it was something I would deal with in old age. But my sister’s diagnosis at a young age and its aggressiveness really shocked me. Not everyone’s case is so extreme, but it’s possible, and women can’t just put their breast/ovarian health in a box and wait to unpack in it their 40s, when they’re done having children, or when they have time. Cancer doesn’t wait until it’s convenient for you. It may never come, but accepting the possibility that it may come is what goes along with being a high-risk woman. There’s a lot of information out there, and it’s up to everyone to read between the lines and find out what’s best for them and their bodies.
What inspires you in everyday life?
The memory of my sister, and knowing that undergoing the mastectomy has made me proactive instead of waiting to be a victim. If I had to see my sister undergo what she did, and then do nothing to prevent it from happening to me, it would be wasteful. I feel like the gift of knowledge that my sister gave me through this experience is the greatest gift I could ever receive. Seeing strong women empowered in the face of adversity is inspiring to me.
What do you love about Bright Pink?
I love that Bright Pink networks you with real people, not just people in glossy pamphlets. I have participated in the Pink Pal program and spoken with a woman who was in my exact situation and could lend her experiences. I love that the outreach programs are fun and conducive to real discussions about the unique problems high risk women face. The women I meet there are a wealth of information, and they make me feel normal navigating my path. We can discuss anything. I love that there are also educational programs with experts who I feel I can ask anything. Bright Pink’s focus on knowledge and empowerment is the message I needed and I hope can continue to share.
How can girls/women get involved with Bright Pink?
All sorts of ways! Women can attend an outreach program, use the website as an informational resource, participate in the Pink Pal program, volunteer at events, or participate in fundraising activities. Last year I ran the Chicago Marathon (my first!) for Team Bright Pink, raising money for the organization and training with the team. This year I plan to run the Chicago Half Marathon with Team Bright Pink as well.
Bright Pink’s message is about the importance of taking a proactive approach to your health and they offer an interactive online quiz that combines your family health history and lifestyle factors to create a personalized risk assessment for you to save, print, and bring to your doctor to craft a proactive breast and ovarian health strategy unique to you! Check out Bright Pink’s Assess Your Risk tool and check back for more updates on our partnership.