Critics say having founder Nancy Brinker step down as CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure may not be enough to restore faith in the breast cancer charity, which has struggled to regain its footing since its controversial and short-lived attempt in January to cut funding to Planned Parenthood.
In a shake-up of the organization's top management, Brinker says she will give up her role as CEO but take a new job as chairwoman of the executive committee. The departure of Komen President Liz Thompson, and two board members, Brenda Lauderback and Linda Law, also were announced Wednesday.
Longtime supporters had complained that Komen was politicizing cancer screenings, which Planned Parenthood provides, along with other services. Many called for Brinker, who founded the charity in honor of her sister, who died from breast cancer at age 36, to step down.
Leadership changes at the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure six months after an online uproar over a decision to cut funds for breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood was greeted with skepticism on Thursday among breast cancer advocates and longtime former supporters.
Nancy G. Brinker, the founder, is stepping aside as chief executive to take on a new management role focusing on fund-raising, strategy and global growth, as my colleague Michael Schwirtz reports.
The president, Liz Thompson, and two board members also announced on Wednesday they were leaving Komen, the nation’s leading breast cancer advocacy organization, officials announced in a statement.
Ms. Brinker, who began the organization in 1982 after her sister died of breast cancer at 36, will serve as chairman of the board’s executive committee, a powerful role that prompted some advocates to question the organization’s commitment to new leadership.
“That makes me think this is a public relations stunt,” said Eve Ellis, a board member for the foundation’s New York chapter from 2004 to 2010. “She will be in a position to fire and hire and politicize women’s health care. I understand that she will no longer be chief executive officer. But she will be the decision maker on who the C.E.O. is. This is problematic.” Read More...
About 96% of 1,004 people polled say the event has succeeded in making people aware of the disease. Nearly 80% say they know someone who has had breast cancer.
And most contribute to the cause, especially if shopping is involved: 84% of all Americans including 95% of those ages 18 to 29 now "shop for the cure," buying pink products with a breast cancer tie-in.
The poll "confirms what we know from experience — people are committed to ending breast cancer and are willing to donate, volunteer, participate in events and buy products that will support that effort," says Nancy Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. "This doesn't mean that they don't care about other issues or other diseases, but breast cancer touches so many people's lives that it's very real to them and they want to take action."
Yet one in three adults, and nearly half of women under 50, say the intense focus on breast cancer overshadows other worthy causes.
"I cannot help but be envious and wish melanoma got even a fraction of the attention and funding," says Donna Regen of Allen, Texas, who lost her daughter to melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. "I admire the success of the marketing, (but) I wish we would see a little less pink," and more support for other cancers.
"Supporters of Susan G. Komen for the Cure are used to seeing the group's founder, Nancy Brinker, at fundraisers such as Race for the Cure.
But some breast cancer survivors said they were surprised to see Brinker recently on the Home Shopping Network selling perfume. The new fragrance, called Promise Me, comes in a rose-colored bottle with Komen's trademarked pink ribbon, and its manufacturer has pledged to donate at least $1 million to the charity. The perfume is the latest in a long line of products bearing Komen's pink ribbon, from kitchen mixers to gardening gloves, that have helped the group raise $1.9 billion for breast cancer causes.
And though some of Komen's marketing partners have become the butt of jokes (KFC's pink "Buckets for the Cure" was even satirized on The Colbert Report last year), none of these pink-ribboned products has angered as many breast cancer survivors as the new fragrance.
Patients treated with chemotherapy often become hypersensitive to scents, and perfumes can give them headaches, dizzy spells or nausea, even years after treatment, says survivor Brenda Coffee, 61, author of Breast Cancer Sisterhood."
Brenda Coffee talks about Women's Health Styles at Fortune 100 Invitation Only Event:
TheNewFront.com's 2011 "Brands Meet Content" continues to be the premier event of Internet Week in NYC. The enormously successful online content marketplace brings together Hollywood's elite, leading content creators, distributors, talent and Fortune 100 marketers to develop the next big, innovative idea in online worldwide content.
The Women's Health Styles segment originated from a study, done by DigitasHealth and Goggle/YouTube, about how women over 40 see themselves and how they make health choices. In addition to Brenda Coffee, Top Breast Cancer blogger and CEO of BreastCancerSisterhood.com, speakers included Lesley Jane Seymour, Editor-in-Chief, MORE Magazine; Laura Michalchyshyn, President & GM, Planet Green and Discovery Fit & Health; Angela Matusik, Chief Content Executive, iVillage and Gina Kolata, Science Reporter, the New York Times. List of NewFront 2011 speakers About theNewFront.com
Breast cancer was not part of my plan. I am blessed with a husband and stepson whom I love and adore, and they love me. Before my diagnosis, we’d just bought property in the Texas Hill Country, were designing a house and looking forward to a new chapter in our lives. I was the girl who did everything right: I exercised six days a week, was a perfect size eight, ate healthy foods and drank in moderation, but I got breast cancer. I am also the poster girl for listening to your “little voice.”
Christmas Eve, 2003, I found a lump in my breast. After the New Year, I had a mammogram. Doctors said it was a benign fibro cyst. No need to worry. For the next six months, I examined it in the shower, at my desk, lying down, bending over. I was obsessed with it. Six months later, I had another mammogram, and was told the same thing. It’s benign. My little voice said otherwise, so I told the doctor I didn’t care what the mammogram said. I wanted it out. Three days later, I had a lumpectomy. As my doctor told me and my husband, “When I saw it, I told my colleagues in the operating room, ‘I told her it was benign.’ Then I cut out the fibro cystic lump, and there it was. Hiding underneath.” Had I waited until the breast cancer grew beyond the bounds of the benign cyst so a mammogram could detect it, I would be dead.
Since then, I’ve had 10 breast cancer surgeries and eight rounds of chemo. During this time, my “little voice” has repeatedly served me well. Four years after my diagnosis, I asked my oncologist if I should take the BRCA test to see if I carried the breast cancer gene. Because I have no family history of breast cancer, he said no, but I ignored him and had the test run anyway. I am BRCA2 positive, which means there was an 84% chance of breast cancer recurring in my “good” breast. A month later, I had a prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction. Because I had a total hysterectomy 10 years earlier, I can cross ovarian cancer off my worry list, but in addition to breast cancer recurrence, I must watch out for pancreatic cancer and melanoma. In the last six years, I’ve become well versed in lumpectomies, mastectomies, DIEP Flap reconstruction, tissue expanders, silicone gel implants, nipple reconstruction, chemo ports, plus surgery to repair a wandering implant that dropped midway between where it should have been and my navel.
In addition to my personal journey as a breast cancer survivor, my father died of cancer when I was 12, and my late husband died of cancer when I was 37. My experiences made me realize cancer affects the whole family, and those families were in need of support. Because I know what cancer families need, in November, 2009, I started BreastCancerSisterhood.com, one of the few survivorship resources for every member of the breast cancer family.
As I look back on my journey, I believe God opened a door that had my name on it. I’m humbled and honored to have touched so many lives. If I could give patients and families one thing, it would be the knowledge that if they can go through breast cancer, they can do anything.
My name is Brenda Coffee and I am a seven-year breast cancer survivor.
Brenda Coffee was taking a piano lesson on her 13th birthday when she found out her father had died. People didn’t talk about cancer with their children then. Brenda didn’t even know what type of cancer it was as her memories leading up to his death involved little more than sitting on the edge of his sick bed, making small talk.
“Like strangers,” she recalls. But children can sense what’s plaguing a household, and Brenda could sense the tension between her mother and neighbor when the pair picked her up from her piano lesson that day. Then, her mother had a nervous breakdown and, barely a teenager, Brenda became her own mother’s parent.
As an adult, Brenda vowed to not have children based on the tumultuous mother-daughter relationship that unfolded. She and her husband Phillip led prosperous, fulfilling lives – until he was diagnosed with late Stage IV lung cancer. For her this time was different than her father’s fight: Phillip, for all his success as a scientist and entrepreneur, he “just withdrew,” leaving her as the primary caregiver, again.
She worked to help her husband cope with a disease for which there was no cure, even going so far as to immerse herself into an area of treatment dealing with monoclonal antibodies, which deliver targeted therapy straight to a patient’s cancer cells. M.D. Anderson, Houston’s renowned cancer treatment center, was so impressed by Brenda’s work they offered her a job.
“I felt like I had the power of life and death but not the power to illicit a conversation with my own husband,” Brenda says. “This really is when families need each other the most.” Phillip kept her at a distance until he, too, lost his battle with cancer. Later, Brenda remarried and was living outside of San Antonio, Texas when she noticed a lump in her breast. The benign lump, it turned out, was covering a malignant tumor.
Now, it was her turn. She underwent a lumpectomy, then a single-mastectomy, then chemotherapy and a later, preemptive second mastectomy. Most people would say much of her life has been plagued by cancer, in one form or another. Of course millions of lives are affected by the disease. What is different in her case is that she credits cancer as being life-changing in a different way.
She says her lifetime of experience with the disease is a gift because from it she became the author books, how-tos-on coping with cancer, either as the patient or a spouse, both physically and emotionally. She launched a website and has bigger media plans, all to further her advice to victims, caregivers and spouses.
Because uniquely, she has been all three.
In fact, she may be one of the only people publicly crusading for survivorship – that is, providing an emotional resource for patients and their families from the point of diagnosis, offering support throughout treatment and helping families and individuals find their new “normal,” whatever that may be.
“Breast cancer awareness has generally only dealt with finding a cure for cancer, not dealing with the diagnosis,” she says. “There is nothing out there on survivorship. What happens when you get cancer? You’re pretty much left to fend for yourself.”
For Brenda, being diagnosed with breast cancer wasn’t the scariest part of her battle, and neither was the chemo. It was the aftermath, the remission. Cancer researchers are always looking for a cure and oncologists are focused on administering treatment, two plainly crucial elements to dealing with cancer. Maybe it made sense for a period of time not to focus on the post-treatment journey: after all, if fewer patients survived cancer in the past, less concern was raised about counseling patients throughout their lifetimes.
“There are so many women, like me, who get to five years after diagnosis and the doctors just say, ‘Okay, you’re done, go live your life’ – and you’re terrified. You sit on the edge of your seat your whole life like it’s a white-knuckle airplane ride. You’re worried that it will come back. This is a whole new area of survivorship that I’m trying to raise awareness for.”
Looking back on her late husband’s cancer, Brenda wishes she’d done some things differently. Phillip’s struggle was different than Brenda’s, and he coped with his diagnosis and treatment differently. He removed himself from his life and kept Brenda “at arm’s length,” she says. Brenda couldn’t have understood what Phillip went through; she didn’t even realize the medical costs had turned the affluent couple’s bank account upside down and shaken every last coin out. But his withdrawal was deep-seated and, not knowing what she knows now, Brenda watched as Phillip sank further into cancer-induced abandonment.
“I would have insisted that he talk about things. That he have conversations with his daughters,” Brenda says, looking back on Phillip’s battle. “I would’ve said, ‘People are in awe of you, and you’ve kept a lot of people at arm’s length. And you kind of like it this way – you like being able to be God. You’ve managed those you love most from afar according to your comfort level. You need to know that this isn’t just about you.”
Brenda’s own battle with cancer helped her further understand the dangers of self-removal. Her second husband, James, and his son, Kirk, were an enormous source of support for Brenda, but finding the tools within to keep cancer from destroying your life is a challenge. The hardest part is keeping yourself from thinking too much about the cancer.
And, as Brenda says, women with fatal diseases worry abut their families. She remembers the first time she attended the Bible study she still goes to today – it’s held at the house of her doctor and his wife, who are close family friends. Her hair was just beginning to fall out from chemo. That’s when she noticed another woman in attendance; one Brenda thought was pretty and wore her hair similar to Brenda’s own. “‘This is why I’m here,’” she thought to herself. ‘‘I’m here to find James’s next wife.
“Thoughts are things,” Brenda says. “You have to create your own body chemistry. Allow yourself to take a break from cancer. I made a conscious decision that when somebody would call to check on me, I would say, ‘I’m doing just great. But enough about me. I want to know about you.’ And then you hear them say, ‘Wow, it sounds like you’re doing great!’ And you start to think, ‘Well, I must be doing great.’ We have the ability to heal ourselves – that doesn’t mean cure ourselves – but women who are Stage IV can still heal on a lot of different levels and cope with it emotionally.”
This notion of healing oneself in the face of a disease as relentless as cancer can seem, at first glance, overwhelming, indeed unlikely.
And yet, her approach is reflected in a somewhat overlooked approach to the disease known as psychosocial oncology, which studies the effects of cancer on a person’s psychological health and vice versa. There also exists what’s known as oncopsychology, or the study of the psychological responses of those indirectly affected by cancer.
There are only about 400 psychosocial oncologists in the country. But some studies show that the endorphins our bodies produce when we’re happy versus those produced when we’re sad are extremely different. Correlating the common methods of cancer treatment with the study of patients’ brain waves and body chemistry could yield drastically more positive results for those battling cancer.
Brenda’s experiences with cancer made her realize there was a lack of resources that would help patients and their families learn about these things. And so she combined her business skills – Brenda describes herself as a “serial entrepreneur” after having made a career as a managing consultant for a publicly held company – founded the Survivorship Media Network, whose mission it is to produce online, television and print material for cancer patients.
BreastCancerSisterhood.com was the first “bite out of the elephant,” as Brenda puts it. Started just a year ago, the site currently receives 20,000 hits a day and has been named one of the Top 10 cancer blogs by Blogs.com. Her two books, The Breast Cancer Sisterhood and Husbands and Heroes: The Breast Cancer Caregiver, plainly advise breast cancer patients and their families on how to deal with the various physical and emotional effects cancer takes on a person. And her ultimate goal is to raise enough venture capital to start The Cancer Cable Channel, which she says would cover every kind of cancer through programming that highlights cutting-edge cancer research, as well as different coping mechanisms and the like – a combination of The Science Channel and Oprah, she says.
“We have The Weather Channel and The Food Network and The Military Channel. Why not?” she says.
Brenda’s fight with the disease – she’s totally cancer-free now – showed her strength within herself she never knew she had. When she tells people her experience was a gift, her husband James says, “I hate it when you tell people that. I wish it was a gift that you never received.”
“But it’s made me a different person,” Brenda says. “This is my ministry. I’m making a difference and I know that when I talk to families. There’s a woman that, two weeks ago, told me I kept her from committing suicide. We have no idea the impact that this is going to have on somebody. Life’s not all about Brenda – it’s not about me anymore at all.”
SAN ANTONIO -- One day after her death, many are still mourning Elizabeth Edwards.
The wife of former presidential candidate John Edwards lost her six-year battle with cancer on Tuesday.
She is being remembered as a strong woman, who touched many lives, including that of local author Brenda Coffee.
"We lost the face of stage 4 breast cancer," said Coffee. "She was our hope. I think she gave everybody hope. Everybody who is trying to get through some hard time in their life, whether it's the loss of a child, the break-up of a marriage, or a serious illness. Elizabeth just had this way about her."
Coffee said she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer six years ago. Since then, she's had 10 breast cancer surgeries and eight rounds of chemotherapy. She's made it her mission to reach out to other survivors and their families by starting the Breast Cancer Sisterhood.
Her latest book features a piece written Elizabeth Edwards.
"We were diagnosed around the same period of time and started treatment at the same time," said Coffee. "And we're both married to powerful men who let us down in one way or another."
Coffee also started one of the top breast cancer blogs. She has been blogging for a little over a year, reaching out to about 20,000 women a month.
"There's just a giant gap between the medical and research of finding a cure," she said. "And, administering treatment and resuming your life and its particularly hard on families.
Coffee now hopes that Edwards' legacy will live on and serve as a reminder about breast cancer and the need to find a cure.
Elizabeth Edwards' candor about her cancer and her defiance in the face of its grim diagnosis made her something of a hero to breast-cancer survivors who would mob her at book signings and as she campaigned in 2008. "Something she told me is so true: When she meets another breast cancer survivor, she instantly knows her better than she knows some of her best friends," says Brenda Coffee of Boerne, Texas. Coffee wrote a book titled Breast Cancer Sisterhood, and Elizabeth Edwards contributed an essay for it. "I agree. We're total strangers who become instant sisters who understand and mirror one another's deepest hopes and fears before we've even said hello."
Continuing in our Breast Cancer Awareness Month series, let’s talk about caregivers. There aren’t many jobs out there that are thrust on you without warning! You don’t need a resume in order to be hired, no special skills are required and you’ve got the job for as long as it takes. Vacations? Days off? A simple 9 to 5? Forget it. Being a caregiver is a tough job. While it’s common for caregivers to feel inadequate as well as under-appreciated, they are the unsung heroes of millions of breast cancer survivors and their families. Read the whole story
As you know from my last post — as well as from all of the pink ribbons everywhere — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Most of this focus is on raising money for “the cure,” but I know from personal experience, awareness needs to include survivorship: helping patients and families from point of diagnosis, to resuming their life when treatment is over. While cancer is a devastating disease that affects the whole family, children are often the last to know about a parent’s cancer. Read the whole story.
Brenda Ray Coffee: Sex and the City
Meets Breast Cancer Survivor Extraordinaire
Meet Brenda Ray Coffee – author, blogger and breast cancer survivor. She has made it her personal mission to empower women with breast cancer and offer them her set of survivorship skills she learned along the way.
Even though Coffee was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, it seems as if she has gained a lifetime of knowledge over the past six years. Knowledge that she shares with the women, men and children who have breast cancer or know someone who has been affected by it.
“It was like I had landed on another planet and there was no way to get back home – or home as I knew it,” Coffee said about learning of her diagnosis.
She began her media company, the Survivorship Media Network, to produce online, print and television content for families who have been affected by cancer. Launched in 2009, Coffee’s first endeavor under the company name was the breastcancersisterhood.com – an online niche for Coffee to reach out to the breast cancer community to share her survivorship skills, and offer them a place to connect. Through her “Top 10 Breast Cancer Blog,” rated by blogs.com, Coffee offers readers an upbeat glimpse into her world today – chemo brain, ill-fitting bras and all. My personal favorite post from “Brenda’s Blog” is when Coffee gets innovative and turns to raisins and even rocks to use as nipple substitutes.
Not surprisingly, her blog gets hits from all over the world. Soon, she will have the opportunity to meet one of her readers – a woman from Africa who is seeking treatment for breast cancer in the U.S.
To add to her repertoire of all things breast cancer, Coffee wrote two books: Husbands and Heroes: A Guide to Help and Thank You for All You Do and Breast Cancer Sisterhood: A Guide to Practical Information and Answers to Your Most Intimate Questions. The latter earned her the title of “Carrie Bradshaw meets breast cancer,” for her honest and raw musings on the realities of breast cancer.
Coffee kept the books short and to the point, which is a stark contrast to some of the lengthier books found on the topic. A mere 45 and 82 pages respectively, she wrote these books to offer survivorship resources to women and their families.
“When you land on that other [breast cancer] planet, you are terrified and in shock and that continues for quite awhile, so your thinking is scattered,” she said. Some tidbits from the book include the things the doctors just don’t tell you such as not to cut your cuticles or floss your teeth while going through chemotherapy. And just like a modern day Carrie Bradshaw, no topic is off limits. She goes where breast cancer books haven’t gone before – the bedroom. Coffee talks about sex, vaginal dryness and how to fix it, nipple substitutes and even how to properly apply vaginal moisturizers. Coffee began her journey with breast cancer as a believer in God, and is now even stronger in her faith. She hopes she empowers the people who read her books and visit her website and blog with a sense of strength and courage. “I want them to just realize that they have lives to lead – that this too shall pass, and more than likely they will emerge from this on the other side – stronger and better than ever,” she said.
By JOY SEWING Copyright 2010 Houston Chronicle
Houston philanthropist Sue Smith lost her sister to breast cancer in 2000. Seven years later, she and her husband, Lester (a cancer survivor), donated $30 million for the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center at Baylor College of Medicine as a way to support research, detection and treatment.
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, opportunities for giving and raising awareness abound, whether you have a little or a lot. Fashion designers and retailers are among those joining the bandwagon, offering pink products from umbrellas to fine jewelry. A portion of each sale goes to designated breast cancer research, awareness or prevention programs.
"I think most people get strongly involved with a cause when they have been touched personally," Sue Smith said. "My sister never gave up. I saw her time and time again find the strength to remain optimistic even during the darkest times.
"We have the privilege of knowing many survivors, and their stories of hope greatly inspire us to continue to find a cure. And the memory of those who lost that battle inspire us to work harder."
Brenda Coffee of Boerne has her own way of helping. After 10 surgeries and eight rounds of chemotherapy, Coffee, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, is on a mission to help families cope with life after a breast-cancer diagnosis.
Now cancer free, Coffee last year launched a website, www.Breast CancerSisterhood.com, to help families deal with everything from helping children cope with a parent's diagnosis to keeping a marriage intact. Her site now receives about 20,000 hits monthly and is among the most popular cancer blogs in the country. The San Antonio native also has written two books, The Breast Cancer Sisterhood and Husbands and Heroes (available on her site and amazon.com for $12.95).
Her advice to family members, especially spouses: "You won't have to have all the answers. You just need to be there."
"All of us who are in this 'club,' if you like, feel we're sisters to one another. It's a profoundly shared experience that can't be explained, no matter how hard you try, unless you've actually been there," says Brenda Coffee, a Costco member in Sonterra Park, Texas.
The "club" she refers to, and to which she belongs, is that of breast cancer survivors.
Coffee's site was originally set up as a nonprofit, but the recession prompted her to go in a different direction. She started the Survivorship Media Network, LLC, to fill the gap for families of patienets, from the point of diagnosis to treatment to getting on with their lives.
"I know what cancer families need," says Coffee, 61, who has also authored two guidebooks, one providing patient advice and the other for husbands acting as caregivers. "I believe I am where I am for a reason. In addition to being a breast cancer survivor, I know what it's like to be the child of a parent who died of cancer and carefiver to my late husband, who died of cancer.
by Liz Szabo, USA TODAY
But for Coffee, a breast cancer survivor, the choice of beverage raised far deeper questions. Would alcohol increase her risk of getting cancer again? Or would it clean her arteries and boost her heart? Did she want to do everything in her power to avoid a relapse? Or, having suffered so much — 10 operations and eight rounds of chemotherapy — did she want to relax and live a little?
"I worry about every drink I take," says Coffee, 60, of Boerne, Texas. Though she exercises and eats healthy, she also says, "I don't think anyone I've talked with is cut out to live the life of a nun."
Although the link between alcohol and breast cancer has become increasingly clear in recent years, that research hasn't simplified women's choices, says cancer surgeon Susan Love, author of Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book.
Even very light drinking increases the risk of breast cancer, but it also appears to help the heart, says Walter Willett, author of Eat, Drink and Be Healthy and a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Consuming two drinks a day increases a woman's risk of breast cancer by more than 20% compared with women who don't drink at all, Willett says. Over a lifetime, that boosts a woman's risk of breast cancer from 1 in 8 to nearly 1 in 6.
Scientists are still trying to learn exactly how alcohol influences breast cancer risk. One clue: Alcohol increases estrogen, research suggests. In a study published online in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute in August, researchers found the strongest connection to breast cancers fueled by estrogen.
Even three to four drinks a week may contribute to relapses, especially in survivors who are overweight, obese or postmenopausal, according to an study in August in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Yet despite these hazards, because alcohol also reduces the risk of coronary artery disease, studies have found that women who indulged in a drink or two a day actually had a slightly lower overall risk of dying from a heart attack, Willett says.
The risk of dying from a sudden heart rhythm disturbance drops, too, by 36%, for women who have a drink a day, Stephanie Chiuve of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston reported Friday in the journal Heart Rhythm. But women who had two or more drinks a day were no better off than abstainers, according to the analysis of 85,000 women in the Nurses Health Study.
Non-smoking women who are young and lean have such a low risk of heart attack that drinking won't really help them but may hurt them, by helping to fuel tumor growth, Willett says. Women can get the benefits of alcohol through exercise, he says.
Emerging evidence suggests that a healthy diet — one with enough folic acid — may help to counteract the negative effects of alcohol, Love says.
As for Coffee, she decided to sip ice water and lemon at the Mexican restaurant that night. But she found it impossible to resist her friends' freshly shaken chocolate martinis two weeks later. Coffee, who blogs about her experience at breastcancersisterhood.com, says, "Sometimes we just want to walk on the wild side and eat pasta and dessert and drink martinis."
Did you know 20% of husbands leave their wives after they have been diagnosed with breast cancer? Those are just some of the harsh realities you'll find inside Brenda Coffee's books. She fought her own battle with breast cancer and is now on a mission to help families stay together during one of the most difficult times of their lives.
She is the author of two new books: Breast Cancer Sisterhood: A guide to practical information and answers to your most intimate questions. And Husbands and Heroes: A guide to help and thank you for all you do.
Austin, TX - Brenda Coffee stopped by Good Day to talk about her two new books: The Breast Cancer Sisterhood and Husbands and Heroes. Proceeds benefit the Mamma Jamma ride, which takes place Saturday, Sept. 25.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report breast cancer is the number one cause of cancer death in Hispanic women, and the second-most common cause of cancer death in white and African Americans. Almost 200,000 women each year are diagnosed with breast cancer. The numbers and statistics can seem overwhelming to most, especially if you’re included in the statistics. KUT’s Julie Moody introduces us to one woman who didn’t want to be just a number among thousands of other women, but rather someone who did something that could help others in the same prognosis.
Almost 200,000 women each year are diagnosed with breast cancer. Where do all these women go for support and help?
Brenda Coffee is one woman who didn’t want to be just a number among thousands of other women, but rather someone who did something that could help others with the same prognosis.
She describes herself as the girl who did everything right. She watched what she ate; she exercised on a regular basis, slept 8 hours a night. You know the drill. Then six years ago, at the age of 54, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She says it felt like she put a wet finger in a light socket.
Coffee said that most of the resources she could find from her home in Boerne, Texas didn’t help her find more information for support and help. Most she found were focused mainly on a cure. Justine Hall with the American Cancer Society said that, although funding research for a cure of all kinds of cancer is an important part of the society’s mission, in recent years they’ve tried to connect those dealing with cancer better.
Brenda Coffee’s experience from treatment to recovery led her to create her own blog and website, BreastCancerSisterhood.com. Along the way, she encouraged others to share their experiences.
Amy Gutierrez is a blogger who shares her experiences with cancer on Coffee’s site. Gutierrez’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer two days before her 13th birthday.
Gutierrez is now 19. Her mother survived. But Gutierrez said that what she blogs about things parents might not think about when talking to their kids about cancer. Like, be prepared for a “new” normal in the household.
That kind of intimate knowledge of what it’s like for your mother to go through treatment is something only someone who’s been there that can honestly speak about.
Brenda Coffee’s website isn’t the only place to share experiences. The American Cancer Society has a survivor network and a separate website for families to post videos. Even Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation offers a wide variety of information and support too. But Brenda Coffee wasn’t satisfied with what the big organizations offered. She said on her own blog, she can act like a friend.
Recent topics on Coffee’s blog range from helpful and delicious tips like dark chocolate can be good to eat to prevent cancer to intimate details of her sex life.
It’s just one example of how the internet can be used as a tool to connect strangers to one another when faced in similar circumstances.
— Julie Moody
WHEN BREAST CANCER BECAME A PART OF BRENDA COFFEE’S LIFE STORY, SHE DECIDED IT WOULD NOT BE IN HER LAST CHAPTER. Instead, the Trinity University graduate decided she would be the protagonist in her own narrative about survivorship and advocacy for a cure. She founded the Survivorship Media Network LLC and BreastCancerSisterhood.com, a place for women and their families to learn about the disease, how to fight it and help others to live.
“Hearing the words, “You have cancer,’ is one of the most frightening, life-threatening things you’ll ever experience,” says Coffee, who runs the award-winning site from Boerne. “From that moment on, your world is colored by the fact that you have cancer.”
The site helps to empower and provide comfort by connecting users through their common experience.
“Think about being dropped in a war zone, and you don’t speak the language or know any of the people,” she says. “It would be imperative to find someone you can trust to help you, a matter of survival. Having cancer is like being in a war zone, and you are battling for your life.”
The site has become her ministry. “I know it sounds strange, but I sometimes feel like breast cancer was a gift from God. My life is so much richer for having walked this path, and for that, I am truly grateful.”—R. Benavidez
By Shermakaye Bass
Instead of appletinis at a Manhattan bistro, we're having lunch at the (nonetheless girly) Thyme & Dough cafe in Dripping Springs. But blogger Brenda Ray Coffee's approach to breast cancer survivorhood reminds me of a "Sex and the City" episode. "In many ways, the site is like that," says the Boerne resident, whose "Brenda's Blog" was named "Top Breast Cancer Blog" by Blogs.com. "We talk about hair and nails and diet and men, all those things girlfriends and sisters talk about."
In honor of Cindy, Marcy Medinger & Mike Moshure have formed a team to support her in her battle against breast cancer..hence the name - Cindy's Soldiers! Please join us in waging the war and supporting Cindy by becoming one of her 'soldiers'. You can walk, run, jog or even crawl - just do it! We're coming out full force to honor and support Cindy! Keep checking in closer to the race and we will post the meeting location at Atlantic Station on this page:
I met Brenda Ray Coffee last week at a big women's luncheon and was enthralled by her wonderful wit and chutzpah about breast cancer. She runs a site called breastcancersisterhood.com. She told me that 25% of men leave their wives when they find out they have breast cancer. Can you believe that mess? Compared with 2% of women who leave when they find out their husband has some kind of cancer.
She told me a lot of other things I didn't know about breast cancer including what it's like to not have a nipple. (I know that sounds like a lot for a lunch conversation, but with Brenda you get to the point pretty fast.) She was honest and frank and although it was a serious subject matter, had me laughing at the idiosyncracies of hardship. Two days later a very VERY dear family friend died from breast cancer that spread into her brain and I thought about how we need to talk about breast cancer all year long, and not just in October. So in honor of that, Brenda let me republish one of her favorite blogs here. I hope you can find room to laugh, even about a dark subject. I have needed laughter after losing the wonderful Cookie Catchings of Marietta, GA. - Stephanie
By Selena Hernandez
DALLAS (CBS 11 / TXA 21) ―Uniting women through a shared experience; that's the goal behind one North Texas woman's unique and candid blog. Her name is Brenda Coffee and she's using her website as a way to help breast cancer patients survive and fight through recovery.
Stage 2 breast cancer was the unexpected news that blindsided Coffee. She found the information overwhelming and difficult to process. "It's kinda like being shoved off a cliff and you're left to fend for yourself and figure out if you can fly."
Yet, through the countless surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy, Coffee refused to be a victim. She, instead, stood strong in her fight for life. Now Coffee says her goal is to, "Help women and their families avoid those holes and get through this time in their life…survive this time of their life, together as a family and intact."
Nearly six years later, Coffee is a survivor, sharing her story and experience in a candid blog. "[The website] breastcancersisterhood.com is an outgrowth of my own experience of not knowing what to do next and how to get from step A to step B," Coffee explained.
On the blog, Coffee writes about everything -- nothing is off limits. "Most doctors are uncomfortable talking to you about subjects, particularly sex," she said.
Coffee even writes about how she once used a raisin, to substitute as a nipple, following her mastectomy. "I put it in where it was supposed to be, got it level - problem solved!" she said of the experiment.
The blog is an open forum to encourage and inspire other women as they battle breast cancer. "You can get thru this and you will emerge on the other side stronger than you ever were," Coffee encourages her readers.
According to Coffee, breast cancer patients are related and have an established bond of sisterhood -- not through blood, but in this case through a blog. "I'm that sister that's going to tell you everything you need to know… that even the best doctors, on the best of days, might forget to tell you."
Boerne, Texas (March 31, 2010)... Brenda Coffee, founder of BreastCancerSisterhood.com, knows all too well what patients, survivors and cancer families need. A breast cancer survivor, Coffee has also dealt with the cancer-related deaths of her father and husband, and recently founded BreastCancerSisterhood.com, an Internet-based resource for all things related to living with and surviving breast cancer. Since most of the focus has been on the cure, many breast cancer patients and families make their way through the dangers and side effects of treatment by trial and error. BreastCancerSisterhood.com offers practical and potentially life-saving information even the best of doctors and existing websites often fail to mention.
According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 250,000 new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in 2009. In addition there are over 2.5 million existing breast cancer survivors, plus husbands, caregivers, family and friends, still in need of support. Cancer is a disease that affects the whole family, and Coffee discovered a huge market in need of practical, intimate information on how to live with and survive this often devastating disease.
“There are many websites devoted to breast cancer, but few offer the discussions and solutions needed by patients, caregivers and families; nor address the problems they face," said Coffee. BreastCancerSisterhood.com helps families stay intact, gives newly diagnosed patients practical information and helps survivors reduce their risk of recurrence.”
With no subject off limits, BreastCancerSisterhood.com includes more than 100 original content videos about sex and intimacy, support for husbands, caregivers and children, coping with side-effects of treatment and more. Videos feature advice and stories from nutritional experts, doctors, counselors, physical therapists and family members, plus candid interviews with Coffee herself.
“Brenda’s Blog,” awarded the Top Breast Cancer Blog by blogs.com and named a Top Blogger by Bizymoms.com, provides a wise, often wise-cracking, yet always uplifting voice on posts as diverse as losing fingernails, weight gain, baldness and rubber nipples. Other site offerings include an e-newsletter, expert sources, “Retail Therapy,” a section featuring items to empower and enlighten breast cancer families, plus breast cancer FAQ’s.
Dr. Sharon Wilks, hematologist and medical oncologist with Cancer Care Centers of South Texas regards BreastCancerSisterhood.com as a valuable site for people diagnosed with breast cancer. "When I first went on BreastCancerSisterhood.com, I remember thinking about all the patients I'm honored to care for who would benefit from the amount of support provided."
BreastCancerSisterhood.com regularly posts new videos and will soon add guest bloggers, a community forum, cancer news feed and strategic partnerships.
Founded by cancer survivor Brenda Coffee, the Survivorship Media Network’s Breast Cancer Sisterhood.com® represents one sister reaching out to help and empower another by giving the gift of survivorship. The Breast Cancer Sisterhood’s mission is to revolutionize the way life-saving information and support is disseminated to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients, existing survivors, patients with recurrence, husbands, caregivers, children and extended friends and family. While there are many Websites devoted to breast cancer, few are practical, straightforward and contain most of the information patients and families need. The site helps families cope with the ravaging physical and emotional effects of treatment and enables them to move forward with their lives.
Lancome's Beauty at Every Age expert Sandy Linter spent some time recently with Brenda Coffee, the dynamic founder of the Breast Cancer Sisterhood. This is an online support group with information for breast cancer patients, survivors, their families and their caregivers. Brenda and Sandy teamed up to do a series of videos about makeup for women undergoing chemotherapy. If you know anyone who could be helped by these videos, please pass them on and let them know about Brenda's organization.