Let’s get REAL about your health! For the 13th year in a row, we’re partnering with Bright Pink, a non-profit building on proven success and deep expertise to find and fund the next generation of ground-breaking breast and ovarian health initiatives. They have deepened their focus on health equity and finding solutions that remove barriers to care and help save lives.
Since 2005, Bright Pink has provided life-saving resources for young women in the form of breast & ovarian cancer risk assessment tools as well as resources for those at increased risk. When detected early, the 5-year survival rate can be 92% for breast & ovarian cancer. The non-profit offers a free 5-minute risk assessment quiz, healthy living tips, educational resources on genetic testing and more ways for young women to educate themselves and take charge of their breast & ovarian health.
100% of Aerie’s donation last year enabled Bright Pink to invest financial and strategic support in four ground-breaking initiatives:
- Enabling Latina breast cancer survivors to educate their daughters about their increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer and arm them with tools and resources to be proactive with their health
- Collaborating with a faith-based organization in order to build understanding of family health history & risk, and connect families to life-saving resources and care.
- Developing and implementing a multi-pronged, culturally relevant communication campaign that will educate, equip and empower 250,000 young Black women on how they can be proactive with their breast health
- Recruiting, training, and equipping a diverse cohort of patient advocates to break down barriers to preventative care at the state level.
#AerieREAL Voices: Kelsie Barnhart’s Breast Cancer Survival Story
Kelsie was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, the most common type of breast cancer, in 2018 at the age of 27. She underwent a single mastectomy and chemotherapy, and is now cancer-free. Last year, Kelsie shared her story with us as part of her #AerieREAL Voices submission. Read on to learn more about her experience, her advice for early prevention and her message for anyone living with a cancer diagnosis.
Can you tell us what Bright Pink’s work means to you as a breast cancer survivor?
Bright Pink has a long history of educating and supporting women. Whether through the creation of their risk assessment tool or their focus on furthering local programs, I love that Bright Pink has kept individuals at the center of everything they do! And as a young breast cancer survivor, I’ve made it a point to partner with organizations that further research and awareness because no amount of effort is too much while cancer still exists.
Can you tell us how you hope Aerie’s partnership with Bright Pink will further the organization’s mission?
One unique part of Bright Pink’s mission is their focus on marginalized communities. I can often take for granted the quality of care I’ve received through each step of my cancer treatment. I LOVE that as an organization they specifically focus on removing barriers to care and fighting treatment inequality. It is my hope that the ongoing partnership between Aerie and Bright Pink will bring a deeper level of awareness to the issues cancer patients face and bring about lasting change. You can read more about the four major community focused initiatives of Bright Pink here.
You were previously an #AerieREAL Voices winner! What about your story makes you AerieREAL & how has it evolved?
Leading up to my cancer surgery, my tumor was becoming more and more painful. I went shopping at Aerie to find a bra without an underwire and in the dressing room I was greeted by a Post-It that said, “You are loved.” That reminder was one I needed as my body was about to go through a huge physical change. I cried the first time I saw my seven inch mastectomy scar but I knew my body was still beautiful. That is what makes me AerieREAL. Over the years, I have grown more secure in my scarred body, more comfortable wearing my breast prosthetic or going flat depending on the day, and more proud of everything my body has made it through!
Early detection can make a big difference in breast cancer treatment outcome. What preventative measures can the Aerie fam take?
1. Feel it on the first. This slogan reminds women to perform a self exam each month. If you notice any lumps or areas of pain, don’t hesitate to tell your medical providers even if you are in your 20s or 30s. I was 27 when I felt my lump and I am eternally thankful that my gynecologist took me seriously enough to refer me for imaging. Yes, breast cancer as a young adult is rare but certainly not unheard of.
2. Know your family history. Some cancers tend to be more hereditary than others. If you are in touch with your biological relatives, ask around to understand whether your mom/grandmothers, aunts, sisters, or cousins have had breast or gynecological cancer. It is also helpful to know whether your family has had genetic testing or a history of hormone imbalances since those can impact cancer growth.
3. Speaking of genetic testing…It is becoming increasingly affordable and accessible to test for a variety of genetic mutations that can lead to cancer. Talk with your doctor or gynecologist if you’d like to be tested. Thankfully various online testing services outside of the traditional medical/insurance system are out there as well.
4. Advocate for yourself. Like I mentioned above, my doctor was willing to refer me for a mammogram and ultrasound even though I was under 30. This was probably because she was a cancer survivor herself. If you don’t feel like your concerns are being listened to, look for a second opinion or find state sponsored programs and grants that make imaging available to you.
What would you like to tell anyone currently dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment?
A cancer diagnosis of any type is undoubtedly a huge part of your life – the decisions are many and the side effects feel endless. However, it only has the power to be a thread in the greater tapestry of your life. When the cancer bubble threatens to be all consuming, I’d encourage any patient to find what feeds their soul. Maybe it’s taking short walks as energy allows or watching a new show on sick days. Maybe it’s listening to an audiobook in bed or experimenting with a new juice recipe. Beauty exists even amidst hardship and I hope it finds you time after time.