Recently, friends of Health Stories Project had the chance to ride along with members of an organization called Young Survival Coalition at their annual Tour De Pink charity bike ride. The Young Survival Coalition (YSC) exists to ensure that no young person faces breast cancer alone. YSC is also “the only national nonprofit that solely focuses on serving young women under the age of 40 affected by breast cancer”.
We collected stories on the road from survivors, families, and people who just want to impact the lives of those living with a potentially isolating disease.
Here are their heartfelt stories:
“My body is still strong.” – Jamie
Diagnosis at a young age comes with its own unique set of challenges. It not only impacts the type and stage of cancer, but it also has implications for treatment, family planning, career and more. The Young Survival Coalition provides educational resources, networking opportunities, professional training and support programs specifically for young adults living with metastatic breast cancer.
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 29. Three months after I was diagnosed, my sister passed away from metastatic breast cancer. It was the scariest time of my life and it was the most uncertain because I just watched the strongest person ever lose her life to breast cancer. I was fearful of that happening to myself.
Over the past almost 11 years I have stayed in remission after 18 rounds of chemotherapy. Cancer has had a major effect on me and my family from my ability to have children, to finding jobs, and being able to stay vibrant in life. I take part of the Young Survival Coalition Tour de Pink as a way to prove to myself that my body is still strong.” – Jamie
“My youngest was two when I was diagnosed, so cancer really upended all of our lives and it’s been a journey and a struggle. The reason I ride Tour de Pink is because I found support from YSC that I didn’t really find anywhere else. Most of the other groups that I went to were for people who couldn’t relate to having a two-year-old and cancer. – Alison
“I had an unexpected diagnosis in March of 2015 when I heard the words, ‘We found cancer.’ As a result, I had a double mastectomy followed by chemo, radiation, additional infusions, and reconstruction. Here I am four years later a survivor and doing my fourth YSC Tour de Pink ride.” – Aimee
“We ride so that no woman faces breast cancer alone.” – Evelyn
Tour de Pink is a 3-day bike ride that raises money for Young Survival Coalition. It is open to people of all skill levels and walks of life. Most of the people we spoke with were part of Team Why We Ride which raised over $50,000 during their 2019 ride and have raised close to $1 million since 2010!
“[When Kayla] was with us they helped her tremendously through her journey. They helped our family. We got resources, we learned what we were dealing with, and [she] had the greatest quality of life. We learned that the purpose of being together and fighting is helping each other walk with strength.” – Evelyn
“I do a lot of charity rides now and this is the only one where you spend three days with the people that the charity impacts directly. You really get to know people and you get to know what the charity does and the wonderful ways it really helps women who have nowhere to go.” – Evan
“8 years ago, we started. We met and were motivated by one of the rider’s daughters, Kayla, and since then it has been a family get-together. We raise awareness. We raise a ton of money and we’ve become a family. Every year I come back because of family.” – Nick
“I started doing Tour de Pink as a bike ride and once I got to know all of the survivors here I had so many more reasons why I ride in Tour de Pink.” – Tanya
“This has affected our family in ways we would have never imagined.” – Lisette
Breast cancer affects not just the person who is diagnosed but also their friends, family, co-workers, teachers and counselors. Young Survival Coalition calls anyone who offers “crucial emotional, physical, financial or spiritual support” a co-survivor. It is important for co-survivors to share their experiences too:
“We had a family member die at a young age from a disease that normally affects women over 50. That shocked us into disbelief and prompted us to seek help from other organizations. It taught us that life is precious, that we need to take each day and appreciate it for what it is, and to help other women affected by breast cancer, or any type of cancer so that they can live the best life they can for as long as possible.” – Lisette
“[Cancer] took my mother 8 years ago, but I also have a best friend who is a survivor. We’re making strides in treatment and everything else. So, I’m here to support my friend and ride for a cause and hopefully one day we’ll find a cure.” – Rhonda
“My aunt is a 20-year survivor and my mom is a two-time survivor. I pray that one day no one else in my family has to be affected by it, but if they do, we’ll get through it because we’re survivors.” – Robert
“I am grateful for every day that I am alive and able to help other people.” – Eva
By the age of 60, every woman has a 1 in 28 chance of receiving a breast cancer diagnosis. No matter what their age or diagnosis, people living with cancer need help and support. Whether you do something small or big it is important to give when you can.
“Since my cancer diagnosis in September 2007, [I have been] grateful for every day that I am alive and able to help other people, raise money and awareness, and be an advocate for other women. I realize there are a lot of people who are worse off than me and anyway I can help them I try and do so.“ – Eva
“Breast cancer affected my life like a crazy whirlwind. I did not know what to expect, what to do, or who I could turn to. Thank God for the family and friends that I do have and that I have gained while having breast cancer. They made it easier for me on this journey and they made me know that I’m not alone.” – Monique
There are many ways for you to find support or get involved.
Share your breast cancer story in the comments below and support young breast cancer survivors and co-survivors in the following ways:
- Give your time by volunteering for YSC
- Donate on behalf of Team Why We Ride here
- Learn more about riding in Tour de Pink here
If you are a breast cancer survivor or co-survivor you can also contact YSC for resources.