MJ DeCoteau was just 22 years old when her mother died of breast cancer. For many, this premature loss would leave a lasting scar and a feeling of emptiness, but for MJ it led to a new career, and a new charity ReThink Breast Cancer.
Realizing that she needed to check out her risks, MJ searched for health information and found that most literature showed an elderly woman doing self-breast exam. As a young twenty-something, she couldn't relate to this material and was sure she wasn't alone. So she founded ReThink Breast Cancer so that she could reach young women. Her organization set about developing innovative awareness campaigns and strategies that would peak the interest of young women. And it's working which is just as well, as contrary to the myth that breast cancer only strikes older women, sadly more and more young women are falling victim to this disease.
Last year, when I was participating in the 60K walk to end breast cancer, I was asked to be a media spokesperson. There were seven of us selected from the 5,000 walkers and as we met to be briefed on how to work with the media, we had to share our stories. Most of the other women were much younger than me and one in particular comes to mind. She had been diagnosed just after she had her first baby. How scary and it sure hit home to me that this is no longer an old lady's disease.
We should be grateful that women like MJ are stepping forward and helping young women come to terms with their illness and that her fresh, upbeat, marketing approach is putting a new spin on breast cancer and getting the message out there.
As I said to MJ after she spoke at our Company of Women dinner, her mother would be proud of her. Instead of leaving her lost, she's left a legacy.
To learn more about ReThink Breast Cancer, go to www.rethinkbreastcancer.com