How many women have said, “I never thought it would happen to me,” only to be rocked by an unforeseen cancer diagnosis? Too many. Far too many.
Teresa Dunlap was never one of those women. She always thought she would get cancer.
Maybe it was her background in clinical research—just too aware of the odds. Maybe it was her family history – her grandmother and an aunt both died of cancer. Another aunt is a survivor. In spite of this “gut” feeling, Teresa, like so many women, was not getting her routine mammograms.
Over the weekend of her birthday, she found a lump. The lump led her to a diagnostic mammogram and, eventually, a diagnosis of stage 0 breast cancer. She is thankful for the lump. Thankful for early detection. Thankful for her life.
Teresa is now an advocate for greater access to healthcare; increased knowledge of the need for research; funding for programs that serve both the long-term and short-term fight against cancer. She recalls her own journey with cancer, the ups and downs of a journey not easily navigated.
She thinks about the millions of women who face cancer without the advantage of a scientific background, without sufficient access to healthcare, without the financial resources needed to stay afloat. What do these women do? What happens to them?
There was a woman Teresa met while undergoing treatment. The woman drove a gas truck during the week, had her weekly cancer treatment on Friday afternoon, used the weekend to “recover” and then started to work again on Monday. This was her reality. No margin for error.
She could not afford cancer.
This is the woman Teresa is most eager to help. The woman Kay Yow would have been most eager to help—the woman who has nobody else to help her.
Teresa is also a voice of strength, encouraging women to participate in clinical trials. “The cure is not in a lab,“ she says. “My treatment worked because I stood on the shoulders of women who were stronger than me. A lot of women participated in trials because they wanted to help. Maybe they were metastatic–they still found a way to help.”
In this fight, there are many ways to help. There are short-term needs to be met, relative to financial assistance and access to medicines. There are also long-term needs – funding for research; research that will help extend lives and enhance quality of life on our way to finding a cure. There is a worldwide team working to find answers, answers that cannot come soon enough.
Yet, the answers are coming. One woman, one drug, one life at a time. The ability for each individual story to impact the narrative on cancer. This is the power of one.
To donate to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, click here.