Rethink: Bringing Breast Cancer Support to Young Women

Tasha Westerman is Long View’s Senior Vice President of People Services, and when she was in her early 30’s she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Her son was 1 year old at the time, and with some quick decisions to make, Tasha began looking for resources that could support her and her family. What she found was that there was a huge gap in support for younger women who are diagnosed with breast cancer in Calgary. Many established organizations existed for more mature women, women with different focuses, and different concerns. In her search, Tasha found Rethink Breast Cancer, an organization specifically dedicated to providing exactly what she was looking for.

At the time, Rethink was based in Toronto, and Tasha reached out to say that they needed to come to Calgary. Calgary is the youngest city in Canada, and therefore more young women are diagnosed with breast cancer here. One of the challenges for younger women with breast cancer is that it’s often a more aggressive form of cancer that requires decisions to be made in days. Decisions that will impact husbands and wives, family, children, and, of course, the woman herself. Making those kinds of decisions in a vacuum without the input, knowledge, experience and support of other women who have gone through the same things adds even more stress to these situations. So Tasha helped to bring a chapter of this organization aimed at providing all of that missing support to a place that needed it. Rethink has now been active in Calgary for 10 years.

Over that 10 years, Rethink’s breast cancer advocacy and support programs have become more established, and focus is now shifting to include advocacy for women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. There are specific drugs and treatment needed, and there’s a lack of funds available. The heartbreaking thing about women with metastatic cancer is that because of the lack of medical support and the time it takes to get funding, these women are dying in the process. So many passionate women that want to further this cause get sick, and continuity in the advocacy process is lost.

The foundation of what Tasha does with Rethink is from her experience that there’s nothing like the support of someone who has been through exactly what you’ve been through and has gotten through it. Tasha along with a group of other survivors created a face to face support program in Calgary and this program was mirrored across Canada.   Although there was huge value in face-to-face support, not all women were close enough to Calgary to be able to make it as much as they would have liked. Chemotherapy is in 3-week cycles, and many women were finding that they weren’t feeling well enough to make the next month’s Rethink groups.  So Rethink moved their support digital!  One of the creations was the Rethink Breast Cancer YouTube channel, the only breast cancer YouTube channel dedicated to providing young women support. Videos are 3-5 minutes, and topics range from tips on chemotherapy, advice for caregivers, how to shop for a bathing suit after a mastectomy, to kid-friendly videos that explain breast cancer to your children.   They also have a closed Facebook group hosted by their Young Women’s Network, which Tasha is a part of, to support other young women currently going through breast cancer.

Rethink fundraises throughout the year, with their biggest event being their annual Boobyball, to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. This year was the 10th Boobyball in Calgary. Boobyball 2017 was at Hotel Arts, and included hair stylists, makeup artists, a great DJ, silent auction, and the opportunity to support a great organization.

You can find more info on Rethink at https://rethinkbreastcancer.com/  and on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/user/rethinkbreastcancer.