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Community, Fueling our Mission

Our Recipe for Success

Shopping, wrapping, and baking, oh my!

During the season of thanks, we like to pause and think about the women in our lives and the memories we’ve made. The mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends that we cherish the times we’ve had with, and those who are no longer with us. This holiday season we hope you’ll help save lives from breast and ovarian cancer by empowering women to manage their health proactively.

Over the next few weeks as you see the women you love, here’s a recipe to make with them. Staff member, Virginia, shares a recipe with priceless memories.

Make a gift in honor of the women in your life.

COOKIES
2 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp powdered sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (use a little more if you add in food coloring, see below)
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4-1/2 jar of seedless raspberry or strawberry jam
Make them pink! –> Red food coloring (or extra jam)

Almond Glaze: 
1 cup powdered sugar (sift it if you can)
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp and 1tsp water
1/4 tsp almond extract

 

To make the cookies: 
Set the oven to 350ºF.

Start with the dry ingredients: whisk the flour, cream of tartar, and salt until very well-blended.

In a separate large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and powdered sugar until light and fluffy (about 4 minutes). Be sure to scrape the bowl down several times when mixing to ensure everything is properly combined. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until blended. Slowly add in the flour mixture as you continue to stir, but be sure not to overmix! Stop when it is just blended. If you wish to add some pink fun to the cookies, add a few drops of red food coloring or another dye and mix to evenly spread the color.

Portion the dough into 6 equal pieces. If the dough is very soft, wrap it up and refrigerate it until it is firmer (about an hour will do – you’ll need to turn off and reheat the oven again when you’re ready).

Prepare two baking sheets with a baking liner such as parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface (You can use your baking sheets if you want! Just keep about 3 inches between each strip) use your hands or a rolling pin to shape each piece of dough into a 12x 1 1/2 inch strip that’s about 1/4 inch thick. Transfer the strips to your baking sheets if you have not already done so, spacing them about 3 inches apart.

Lightly dip the end of a spreading knife in flour and then make an indentation down the middle of each strip, going about halfway down into the strip’s thickness. (Your strips will expand to be about 1 3/4 inches wide). Spread about 1 tbsp of jam down the indentation of each strip.

Bake the cookies for 20 minutes, or until the edges and bottoms have lightly browned, turning the sheets around halfway through baking. Cool them on the sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer the strips to a rack to cool completely by carefully lifting and placing the parchment paper/baking liner. If you plan to freeze these, do it after they are cooled before you glaze them.

To glaze the cookies: 
In a small bowl, mix the powdered sugar, salt, water, and almond extract. The glaze should be thick enough to hold its shape when you are drizzling it. Add more powdered sugar or water as needed. Using the tines of a fork, drizzle the glaze over the tops of the strips. Let the strips sit until the glaze is set (about 30 minutes) and then transfer them to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut the cookies on the diagonal to make 1-inch thick diamond shapes.

*Adapted from “Fine Cooking”

Assess Your Risk, Community, Early Detection, Personal Stories

I collected my family health history. You should too.

Here we are, in the midst of the holiday season! The holidays create warm, joyous memories of family and friends–memories that can be held close as a sustaining thought on challenging days. As we look forward to a peaceful time filled with those we love, let’s commit to creating a new memory of putting our health first.

I can remember creating this memory last year with my family and all the valuable knowledge I gained from it. Leave it to my mother to make Christmas over the top, and this year was no different. Excitedly, she walked into the living room with a giant craft board and an announcement that we would be planning our very first family reunion. Overjoyed by the opportunity to get together with family I’ve never met, we began to write down names of family members to invite. Inevitably, this conversation turned into one about our family tree. As we went through each name, I listened intently to the stories my mom told of her memories with family members I hadn’t met, including their health history. Learning about my family history of high blood pressure, cancer, and diabetes definitely was a light bulb moment of how their genetic makeup can influence my own. Knowing your family health history can help you identify if you if a higher-than-usual chance of common disorders.

I came across Bright Pink’s risk assessment tool this past October and was blown away with how easy and intuitive it was to plug in my details and discover my risk levels for breast and ovarian cancer. I jumped at the chance of sharing the risk assessment tool with our Beautiful Brown Girls community. Beautiful Brown Girls is a social organization for women of color that focuses on creating unique experiences that create a world that runs on love, inspiration, and acceptance. We pride ourselves on creating community and sister circles. We have learned that we are our sister’s keeper, which includes making sure each sister is proactively making healthy decisions.

Several deadly diseases strike Black Americans harder and more often than others, including breast and ovarian cancer. Part of the fight to change this statistic is knowing your genetic health history and being committed to improving your health education. I was able to use all the knowledge I received from my mother that Christmas morning to answer several simple questions about my family’s health history in Bright Pink’s risk assessment tool. As we sit around to make lifelong memories with our families this holiday, let’s add taking the time to make a new family memory around learning about our family tree to the top of the list.

Assess Your Risk, Community, Early Detection, Personal Stories

“When the test came back, I learned that I carry the BRCA mutation.”

After my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, we learned for the first time that a BRCA gene mutation runs in our family tree. At the time, I did not know what BRCA meant nor had given any thought to my own risk of developing cancer. I was 27 years old and a new mom to twin girls. It was not lost on me that I needed to learn more about my risk, to understand my family health history, and to figure out whether I also carried this genetic mutation. Knowing would mean that I could be proactive about my own health and that I could pass valuable health information on to my daughters (and son) when the time was right. I made the decision to see a genetic counselor.

My genetic counselor and I reviewed the health information about my family that I had gathered, looked over statistics, had a thoughtful conversation about the genetic test I would take, and discussed what options were available to me should we learn that I carry the BRCA mutation. He also connected me with resources, like Bright Pink.

When the test came back, I learned that I carry a BRCA mutation. Conversations with my genetic counselor, healthcare professionals, and women at Bright Pink helped me feel like I was part of a team. My team had a clear, decisive offensive strategy to beat this gene. Being BRCA positive can feel overwhelming at times, but having knowledge and a great team can help you to see your opportunity to take control of your health, be proactive, and feel empowered.
Here are my tips if you are considering genetic testing:

1. Assess your risk.

  • Go to assessyourrisk.org. This short quiz asks you questions about your personal health history, your family health history, and how you live your life to give you your baseline risk for breast and ovarian cancer as well as action steps.
  • Gather your family history from both your mom AND dad’s sides before completing Assess Your Risk–it will give you a clearer result with personalized follow up recommendations.

2. Meet with a genetic counselor or a healthcare professional to discuss your family tree, understand your potential risk level, and various options for being proactive.

3. Establish a support system. Whether family, friends, a counselor, or online communities like Bright Pink’s Support Community on Facebook, having a system in place will help ensure that you can find the support you might need as you prepare to receive and act upon your genetic testing results.

Bright Pink is here to support you on your journey towards personalized prevention. Bright Pink has amazing resources on their website, or you can visit ExploreYourGenetic.org to learn more about your genetics and genetic testing.

Assess Your Risk

Bright Pink WON the Blue Cross Blue Shield X MATTER Health Equity Innovation Challenge!

Bright Pink is thrilled to announce that we have been selected as the winner (out of 70 applicants!) of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) and MATTER Health Equity Innovation Challenge! Our grand prize includes $15,000 and the opportunity to pilot our Assess Your Risk experience in partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield–all rooted in a goal to help address racial and socioeconomic disparities in breast and ovarian cancer risk and reach more black and low-income women with personalized prevention.

Why is this pilot important?

Here is the harsh reality: Black and low-income women are more likely to die from breast and ovarian cancer. Up to 25% of breast and ovarian cancers are due to family history or genetic mutation. Among younger women, African American women have a higher rate of cancers that are associated with hereditary cancer risk, such as triple negative breast cancer, an aggressive subtype that is associated with the BRCA1 gene mutation. This demographic has a breast cancer rate that is two times higher than white women under age 35 and dies three times as often as white women of the same age.

Unfortunately, women at elevated risk due to genetics and family history continue to go unidentified and are therefore not connected to cancer prevention services. An estimated 2.3 million people in the U.S. carry a mutation that puts them at an extremely high risk for cancer, yet an estimated 90 percent are unaware of their risk status.

At Bright Pink, we see an opportunity to close this gap through our digital risk assessment experience, AssessYourRisk.org. Digital tools can be a catalyst for personal prevention because of their accessibility and ability to bring health information to and facilitate ongoing proactive health management with women in their daily lives—on their own terms, in their own environment, from their social feeds. Now is the time to leverage the power of digital, in partnership with healthcare organizations, to address women’s cancer mortality rate disparities … that’s where our pilot with BCBSIL comes in.

What does this pilot opportunity mean, exactly?

Bright Pink is committed to continuous learning, testing, and evolving of our digital programming to meet women where they are and empower them to manage their health proactively. A pilot with BCBSIL will help to accelerate innovation around the Assess Your Risk experience by:

  • Scaling the tool’s reach among women of color and women with low-incomes who have health coverage that affords them the ability to access preventive care.
  • Contributing to research on breast and ovarian cancer risk stratification among women of color who have historically been excluded from breast and ovarian cancer risk studies.
  • Optimizing the risk assessment experience based on insights from BCBSIL leadership and members. Specifically, Bright Pink seeks to better address barriers to care, enhance the tool’s cultural competency, and optimize our multi-channel follow-up strategy based on best practices in digital communication as a driver of health behavior change.

Imagine if every woman in Illinois, every woman in America, had equal opportunity for a bright future because they knew their risk for breast and ovarian cancer, understood the steps they could take to reduce that risk over time, and were empowered to become their own best health advocates? We are confident that this pilot with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois will put us on a better path to achieving this goal.

Assess Your Risk, Community, Early Detection, Personal Stories

Brown Girl and BRCA Plus: Kellie’s Story

I stood alone. Bruised and flat-chested. Praying to have made the right decision. A casual office visit. A simple genetic test. A percentage of numbers had jump-started an amazingly wonderful, scary rollercoaster ride as I settled into life after a preventative mastectomy. As I looked in the mirror, I considered what I had lost. Gone were the breasts with which I nursed my daughter, the breasts that my grandmother and I celebrated once they budded from “nubbins,” the breasts that made me look like a million bucks in my favorite sorority shirt. Gone.

In my loss, I didn’t consider that I had gained something more valuable … peace. Gone is the fear of finding a lump as I examine my breasts in the shower each month. Gone is the apprehension I felt as I impatiently waited for the results of my annual mammogram. Gone is the anxiety I experienced as I helplessly awaited my turn at breast cancer, like an inevitable rights of passage … like my mother in the past (twice!) and my sister in the present. Breast cancer has stripped moments of happiness from our family, unfortunately, but it has also birthed this beautiful tapestry of strength, courage and resilience.

Being genetically tested and learning I have the BRCA gene mutation led me to take action and have preventive surgeries, and that has been one of the scariest and most fulfilling decisions of my life. There have been good days and bad days … up days, down days. “You are killing the game!” days have been promptly followed by “This pretty much sucks!” days. And I have learned to take every last bit of it with a measure of relief and gratitude. I have watched the very best parts of myself unfold. I have uncovered my voice and a passion to enrich, inspire, and spread the word about the importance of genetic testing, especially for women of color so that we might see ourselves represented, lest we think this option is not for us.

Surgery isn’t for everyone … but knowledge is a game changer! Being tested and knowing the results allows for consistent and thorough monitoring, and early detection of breast/ovarian cancer can save your life! I would love to share more of my story with you. I am committed to spreading awareness in whatever measure; hoping my tiny spark will ignite a roaring fire.

KELLIE is a married, mother of two, BCRA1 previvor and the daughter of a two-time breast cancer survivor. Kellie recently had a mastectomy and a hysterectomy (2/21/2018) and is excited to be on the other side of recovery. She enjoys traveling, thrift shopping and sharing her experiences via her blog (browngirlandbrcaplus.com) and Instagram. Kellie initiated BROWN GIRL AND BRCA PLUS to spread awareness about the importance of genetic testing and offer a view of the BRCA experience from a person of color’s perspective.

Instagram: @browngirlandbrcaplus
Web: www.browngirlandbrcaplus.com

Community, Fueling our Mission, Personal Stories, We Love

Your Support Matters

When you support Bright Pink, you empower women to be proactive about their health. For the rest of 2018, we are highlighting impactful voices from our network to show why individuals support Bright Pink and our mission: to help save lives from breast and ovarian cancer by empowering women to know their risk and by driving women at elevated risk to take action. Here are their stories:

Julie: “I am Bright Pink because knowledge is power.”

As a genetic counselor, I’ve spent my career educating healthcare providers about the importance of identifying a patient’s risk of cancer and managing it. Bright Pink allows me to educate the patient directly and empower them to ask for a risk assessment from their providers.

I care about Bright Pink because I’ve heard too many stories in my career about patients developing preventable cancers (and sometimes dying from them) to not care.

 

 

 

 

Brianna: “I am Bright Pink because I am a mother of two, a survivor, a previvor, and a prevention advocate.”

As a high-risk women, I know how difficult it can be to take a proactive approach to our health.

I am BRCA2 positive. After learning of my risk, I was empowered to detect my breast cancer at an early stage. When diagnosed, I connected with Bright Pink, which has helped me throughout every stage.

Today I am a prevention advocate. I recently took the preventative measure to have my ovaries and tubes removed, a choice I made knowing the facts on what it means to carry this gene.

Bright Pink taught me how powerful knowledge can be, and how to be secure in my choices about my health.

 

 

 

Dr. Josh Cohen: “I am Bright Pink because we have a common goal: to stop cancer.”

As a gynecologic oncologist, I am dedicated to educating my patients and fellow physicians about proactive approaches to breast and ovarian health.

Breast and ovarian cancers impact amazing women and their families. Until we can cure these cancers, we need a mechanism to prevent them through prevention and early detection.

At this time, no cure exists for breast and ovarian cancer. Bright Pink gives me hope we can prevent these cancers.

 

 

 

 

Puja: “I am Bright Pink because I am a woman, sister, aunt and daughter.”

I am not only a woman, sister, aunt, and daughter – I am a tireless health and awareness advocate for those who can’t be for themselves.

Bright Pink has opened my eyes to the need for women to both educate and take action when it comes to our health. We are our own best advocates. Bright Pink’s tools are necessary for all women to truly own their health trajectory.

If we do not assess our risk early and often, we leave our health to chance.

By supporting Bright Pink, I know I am helping all women to be their own best health advocates.

 

 

 

Stacey: “I am Bright Pink because I own my breast and ovarian future.

9 years ago, my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Through that harrowing experience, my sister and I learned that we’re BRCA positive.

I was fortunate to meet Bright Pink. They held my hand through my BRCA discovery, my mastectomy, and my hysterectomy, and helped me feel empowered about my future.

I support Bright Pink because they gave my mother, my sister, and me the confidence to be proactive about our health.

Join me and support Bright Pink today as they help to save women’s lives from breast and ovarian cancer by empowering them to live proactively.”

 

 

Join Julie, Brianna, Dr. Cohen, Puja, Stacey and our entire community by making a gift today.

$10 has the power to help one woman know her breast and ovarian cancer risk and manage her health proactively.

$100 has the power to educate a healthcare provider on breast and ovarian cancer risk stratification and management for their patients.

 

 

Assess Your Risk

Take Your Health Into Your Own Hands

Bright Pink is a nonprofit like no other: We want to advance the conversation around breast and ovarian cancer beyond awareness to action. Our organization is built on a foundation of focusing on health, not cancer.

This October, we are launching a new and improved version of our digital quiz, Assess Your Risk, to better empower all women to learn their breast and ovarian cancer risk and manage their health proactively. While Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an excellent time to talk about breast health, Bright Pink is fiercely committed 365 days a year to ensuring women can be their own best health advocates. We have updated our flagship program, Assess Your Risk, to better equip women to do just that.

What’s new, you ask?

The tool is up-to-date with the latest National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines, has received the National Society of Genetic Counselor’s seal of approval, and includes new features such as:

  • A design facelift! We are using new colors and design elements to enhance your quiz-taking experience.
  • A better mobile experience so you can easily take the quiz on-the-go.
  • Results delivered to your inbox: A PDF version of your results will be emailed to you after taking the quiz so that it’s always at your fingertips.
  • Personalized results and risk-reduction recommendations–we do not believe there is a one-size-fits-all approach to breast and ovarian health. You’ll also be served up content and resources that meet you where you are in your breast and ovarian health journey. For example, if you don’t have a complete picture of your family health history, the quiz will generate your individual results based on lifestyle and personal health history, but then follow up with resources to support you in gathering any gaps in information if needed.  
  • A new section on the results page called ‘Things we’re keeping an eye on,’ dedicated to informing you about ongoing research into additional factors that may contribute to your risk (i.g. IUD’s and other forms of birth control, transgender hormone therapy, and endometriosis, among others).
  • An enhanced user experience with a progress bar to guide you through questions organized by category of risk factors (family health history, personal health history, lifestyle).
  • New questions about race/ethnicity and health insurance to better tailor results and enhance the accessibility of follow up content.
  • New content and recommendations related to the elevated risk of triple-negative breast tumors and BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations amongst black women.

 

We’re super proud of this new and improved Assess Your Risk experience, and want everyone to see what all the hype is about. Shout out to our corporate partner, Deloitte, for sponsoring the development of this life-saving tool.

If you have already assessed your risk, you know how valuable that knowledge can be. But did you know you should reassess annually? Your breast and ovarian cancer risk can change over time and the medical community is always learning about new factors that affect our risk. If you haven’t taken the quiz yet this fall, there’s no time like the present to take your health into your own hands.

Bright Pink is committed to helping all women know and understand why it’s even important to know your breast and ovarian cancer risk in the first place. So, we teamed up with notable influencers across the nation to share their stories and inspire you to prioritize your breast and ovarian health. Shout out to Zeta Tau Alpha for sponsoring the development and distribution of these incredible videos. We dare you to watch these and not get instantly inspired.

If you skimmed this post (no judgement) and only walk away with one thing, know this: Bright Pink is here to help you take your health into your own hands, but being proactive starts with you. Take control of your breast and ovarian health first by taking Assess Your Risk, watching our inspirational videos, and stay connected to us and our work on social media. Your body thanks you!

 

Community, Fueling our Mission, Personal Stories

The Somm and the Diva Mom

Seth is the Wine Director at Booth One, a Chicagoland bar and restaurant in the Gold Coast neighborhood. Throughout the month of September and October, Booth One is hosting a Happy Hour program benefitting Bright Pink. We sat down with Seth to ask him some questions about his philanthropic spirit and connection to Bright Pink.  

Tell us a little bit about the fundraiser you are hosting at Booth One. What should our community know?

Stop by Booth One (1301 N State Pkwy, Chicago) any Wednesday throughout September and October and you will be able to enjoy $5 bar bites like Crispy Halibut Tacos, plus $5 beers and a selection of $5 wines and bubbles. A portion of proceeds will be donated to Bright Pink to help educate our community on the importance of knowing your breast and ovarian cancer risk and managing that risk proactively. Cancer can be a difficult topic of conversation, but I want this event to be able to celebrate the strength we can build together and have some fun doing it. Like my mom used to say, “Life is difficult, but it’s so much more fun to laugh than to cry about it.”

Note: Bright Pink encourages you to drink responsibly! Research shows a 10% increase in breast cancer risk for each drink you have each day, so do your best to limit alcohol to no more than one drink per day.

What is your connection to Bright Pink?

Bright Pink was actually brought to my attention through a friend as a potential non-profit Booth One could endorse. As I did more research, I knew there could be a way to incorporate fundraising for Bright Pink into our wine program in addition to honoring my mother since Bright Pink’s work hits so close to me and my heart.

Why Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month? What significance does this have?

My mother passed away from ovarian cancer last October (2017). She endured an aggressive cancer that took her life only three short months after diagnosis. Throughout her treatment, we heard over and over about how sly ovarian cancer is and how difficult it can be to recognize the signs and symptoms before it’s too late.

I remember my mom’s doctor saying that we should all be looking at cancer more holistically and combat it before it’s able to go into full force. My experience has taught me the power of being knowledgeable about ovarian cancer risk and how to pay attention to the signs and symptoms. My mother also LOVED wine and helped foster my personal passion for it. It was during the opening of Booth One that she was diagnosed and I spent countless hours by her side while building our award-winning wine list, so our happy hour program is also a commemorative event to celebrate the influence she had on me and my success.

Assess Your Risk, Community, Early Detection, Personal Stories

“At 34, I was the epitome of a healthy young woman.”

Did you know? About 21,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year, and of those, 14,000 die from it. That’s essentially ⅔ ratio. This year, I became one of those 21,000; however, I’m also incredibly lucky to be one of the fortunate ones who caught it before it was too late.

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is important to me because there is so much that we, as women, don’t know about our bodies and how we can be proactive about our health.

My Story

At 34, I was the epitome of a healthy young woman. I eat clean, don’t smoke, exercise regularly, and wear sunscreen. One day, I walked into the doctor’s office and found out I have cancer.

My journey started with a gut feeling. In recent years, I’d had a number of friends who had confided in me about their trouble conceiving and, as an unmarried woman in my early 30’s who desperately wants children one day, I decided to trust my instincts and look into freezing my eggs.

At my initial appointment, the doctors gave me an ultrasound which revealed a large ovarian cyst on my right ovary. The doctors assured me it was nothing, “99% chance it’s benign” but nonetheless, they recommended I have surgery to remove it so it wouldn’t rupture and cause more severe internal damage. I reluctantly agreed.

Surgery number one was scheduled in September. The plan was to have the cyst removed and then I could proceed with egg freezing; however, after surgery, I walked in to my follow up appointment for the biopsy results and got the news everyone dreads hearing.

On October 5, 2017 I was diagnosed with immature teratoma (stage 1) ovarian cancer. As the doctors explained to me, the initial cyst was benign; however, during surgery, they found another tumor that none of the scans had shown. That tumor was cancerous.

The next few weeks were a blur. I saw numerous doctors for second and even third opinions to understand what was going on in my body and what was the best course of action for my treatment. After reviewing all options, the treatment plan was outlined to have surgery to remove my right ovary and, as long as the cancer hadn’t spread, I wouldn’t have to proceed with chemotherapy.

I felt so many emotions during those weeks leading up to surgery. I wondered how on earth this was happening to me, why I didn’t know and what signs I missed. As someone who is extremely type A, I scoured my calendar for missed annual appointments or anything of that nature and I came up short. I had done everything right, it just didn’t make sense.

Going into surgery was one of the scariest days of my life. I believed in my heart that I would be ok but I still saw the fear in everyone’s faces when they learned my story. But I’m nothing if not a fighter so I forged ahead, trying to remember to be brave like all those other women who’ve been through this battle too.

Luckily, on Thanksgiving that year after surgery #2, I was given the news that I was cancer-free. This means I would be closely monitored for the next year but essentially, I had a clean bill of health and wouldn’t need additional treatment.

As I stand here today, it’s certainly not lost on me how fortunate I am to have caught this early. And, when Bright Pink approached me to write this piece, I’m reminded of something I heard once that really stuck with me: It’s not luck that changes your fate. Everyone in this world will have situations that are “lucky.” It’s what you do with that luck that has the power to change the world.

For me, that’s why Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month is so important. I’m standing here today not with any large life lesson or sign/symptom that I can share to save you or your loved ones from cancer. Instead, I’m joining Bright Pink and telling you to #ListenUp.

#ListenUp to your instincts. If you think something isn’t right, call your doctor. Who knows, it just may save your life. It saved mine.

MORGAN BELLOCK is a Public Relations professional living in the Chicago area. You can get in contact with Morgan at [email protected]

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