One of the great things about this blog is getting a chance to spotlight organizations and people who are making a difference in Cleveland. Today I want to share with you a “blog-terview” with Betsy Coy, a Cleveland native who is starting the local chapter of the national Bright Pink organization. This seems especially appropriate today, since it’s International Women’s Day, too!
What is Bright Pink?
Bright Pink is the only national non-profit organization focusing on the risk reduction and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women while providing support for high-risk individuals. It is an organization that strongly believes in empowering young women to be proactive advocates for their health. Bright Pink hopes to educate young women to develop and live by a personalized breast and ovarian cancer risk reduction or early detection strategy. We do this by hosting Breast Ovarian Health workshops. Our first one is scheduled for mid-June at Athleta at Beachwood Place.
The workshops help participants learn the basics about breast and ovarian cancer and why it is so important that we, as young women, start to be proactive with our health. They are one-hour, interactive workshops that help young women understand what these cancers are, lifetime risk, and how to be proactive with their health. Our support arm is centered in Experiential Outreach Groups, which are Bright Pink’s version of a support group. These gatherings bring young women at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer together for a fun activity, like a yoga class or pottery painting, and facilitated discussion about a topic related to being young at high risk.
What inspired you to get involved with this organization?
I became involved in Bright Pink when I found out I was positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation about 3 years ago. I have a long family history of cancer. After my dad passed away from Pancreatic cancer 6 years ago, I started digging further into my family’s history. There are so many cancers on my dad’s side (breast, ovarian and pancreatic). I shared my worries with my internist who suggested I have genetic testing to find out if I was at a higher risk. It’s a scary thing to learn that your risk of cancer is so elevated. Women with the BRCA1 mutation have up to an 86% lifetime risk for breast cancer and up to a 46% lifetime risk for ovarian cancer.
During that time, I found Bright Pink. The women of Bright Pink really helped me feel comfortable with the facts I was facing and the decisions I was making. I chose to have a prophylactic double mastectomy with reconstruction. I also had a prophylactic oophrectomy to control my risk for ovarian cancer. My risk for both is now reduced to 1-2%. I have served as a Pink Pal for Bright Pink and really wanted to help bring an in person group to Cleveland. We started out as an “ally city” for the national organization and they just notified us that they are making us an official Chapter!
Tell us about Bright Pink’s upcoming events.
We have formed a team for the Cleveland Half Marathon. We are doing amazingly well with recruiting runners and fundraising. We have 20 runners already! We are certainly open to having other runners join our team, but are also going to need some people that will be on the route to cheer on our team. If there is an interest in supporting us financially, money can be donated through our half-marathon fundraising site.
Also, on Sunday, April 7, we are going to have a “Turn Cleveland Bright Pink” event. We will plan a meeting for others to learn about what Bright Pink has to offer in Cleveland. We’ll have some food and drinks. Then, we are going to send people out to turn the town Bright Pink. We have mapped out coffee shops, libraries, and gyms around town (east, west, north and south) and are going to canvas the town to hang up posters. Stay tuned to our Facebook page for more information!
What’s been the most rewarding part of Bright Pink? What’s been the most challenging?
The most rewarding part of Bright Pink is meeting and interacting with the women involved. Through this process, I have met the most amazing women! First, it is a fantastic feeling to be able to be a support for women who are BRCA positive and high risk. It’s also great to help educate women about their risk and how to be proactive.
It has been challenging to get the word out to people in Cleveland. People hear breast cancer or ovarian cancer and think that we’re just another cancer organization. Not so! At Bright Pink, we believe that knowledge is power, that information is beneficial, not burdensome. The more you know about breast and ovarian cancer, the better equipped you are to live proactively. Being Bright Pink is not just about being aware; it’s about taking action.
How can we get involved? What can we do to help Bright Pink?
I’m looking to reach out to two groups of women. First: young women between the ages of 18 – 45 years old who are at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer based upon a family history, previous cancer diagnosis or genetic predisposition. Second: any other young women who are interested in being proactive with their health and helping us turn Cleveland Bright Pink. Because all women have at least a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer, the Bright Pink message of being proactive is universal to all young women.
Anyone interested in participating in an experiential outreach, learning about our Breast and Ovarian Health seminars or just volunteering with us, should contact us at Cleveland@bebrightpink.org
Much thanks to Betsy for sharing her story! Hopefully you all are as inspired as I am and will be helping to turn Cleveland Bright Pink!