When the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition was founded by a group of volunteers in 1991, one of the first needs they identified was a program for young breast cancer survivors. At the time, there weren’t a lot of resources or groups specifically for young women impacted by breast cancer. And they also felt that they had different needs and questions like “Will I be able to have children after treatment?” or “How do I tell my young children about my cancer?” or “How do I tell someone I’m dating about my breast cancer?”
The Young Survivors in Action (YSIA)program was started by a group of volunteers who were breast cancer survivors. The group held some events for young survivors and went out and spoke to groups. The main focus was on mentoring young women through their breast cancer journey. “The program morphed into the Peer Mentor Support Program and set a framework for a one-on-one mentoring program for all newly diagnosed breast cancer patients,” said Cathy Holloway, Program Director for Education & Survivorship at DBCC. Today, the Peer Mentor Support Program has trained over 250 peer mentors throughout the state and helps over 200 newly diagnosed women each year.
In the past year, the YSIA program has been offering new programs. “First we held a focus group with young survivors to identify issues they want to hear about,” said Cathy. They agreed that the YSIA program would offer a networking piece in addition to an educational health-related piece. The group is open to all young breast cancer survivors in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. According to the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, more than 11,000 women under 40 are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Though that number accounts for less than 5% of breast cancer diagnoses each year, there are 250,000 women 40 and under in the United States living with breast cancer.
The YSIA program currently operates in two locations: New Castle County (including surrounding counties in Pennsylvania) and Kent/Sussex Counties. The groups organize their own programs based on the interests of the group. Programs to date have included a holiday party, a hike and picnic, a talk with a psychologist who provided tips to talk to children about cancer, and a talk on the benefits of juicing.
“The needs of young survivors can be very different and include concerns about young children, getting pregnant, breastfeeding, dating, body image and sexuality, healthy eating, exercise and more,” said Cathy. YSIA plans to discuss topics like these in future programs.
YSIA is also active in DBCC events like the Breast Cancer Update, the Monster Miles for a Cause Walk, the Nurture with Nature program, and the DE-feet Breast Cancer 5K Run/Walk. In January, they held a Guest Bartender Night at BBC Tavern & Grille to raise funds for the YSIA program. They are also planning in being involved with the DBCC Night at the Blue Rocks on July 11.
If you are interested in joining the Young Survivors in Action group please contact Cathy Holloway at 302-778-1102 ext. 13.