Austin Women Magazine: Breast Cancer Frenemies

by Kira Taniguchi

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.