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Bright Pink founder Lindsay Avner stresses the importance of action

Lindsay Avner | Steve Feferman Photo

Lindsay Avner | Steve Feferman Photo

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Updated: November 16, 2012 6:09AM



For our team at Bright Pink, October is show time. It’s where our Chicago-based non-profit takes center stage, nationwide, with exposure ranging from New York Times Square takeovers to high-profile celebrity auctions on the eBay homepage.

As much as I love all the pink, we have a long way to go in transitioning awareness into action. There is still work to be done when the young woman sporting the latest pink accessory has no idea what her normal breast tissue should feel like. Or the one running in the local 5K to support breast cancer awareness doesn’t realize the impact her father’s family’s cancer history could have on her own breast cancer risk.

I started Bright Pink six years ago when I was 23 years old, after I became the youngest woman in the country to get a risk-reducing double mastectomy and nipple-sparing reconstruction after testing positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation, which indicated I had up to an 87 percent lifetime risk of getting breast cancer. My mom is a breast and ovarian cancer survivor, and my grandma and great-grandma died one week apart — both from breast cancer — before I was born. This disease has followed my family for generations, and I vowed I would do everything I could to reduce my own risk.

I took action by cultivating a brilliant, bold and bright community that inspires other young women to be proactive with their breast and ovarian health. What started as a small website has blossomed into a national movement. Bright Pink offers innovative education, support and community outreach programming to thousands of young women nationwide.

Just this week, I saw the importance of our mission come to life when I received this letter from a 24-year-old woman in Minneapolis named Marie who had recently attended one of my speaking engagements:

“I had detected a lump in my breast earlier this spring, but because of my age and good health, my doctors thought it was just a cyst. However, when you came to speak at my company mid-August, I couldn’t get the words ‘Awareness to Action’ out of my mind. I was scared because that lump was still there, and had even been growing … I knew something wasn’t right. Inspired by your message, I went back to the doctor where I learned the news just yesterday that I have stage 4 breast cancer. Basically, I am going to die from cancer, it’s just matter of when. We have so much work to do. Please, keep up the work with Bright Pink and make sure women know that now is the time to take action.”

I have a hard time sleeping at night knowing there are countless other Maries that our message has not yet reached. We work 16-hour days, seven days a week, but the fact remains that we aren’t getting to enough people fast enough. That’s where our network of supporters comes in. We need your help to amplify our message, to join the movement and turn breast cancer awareness into action this month, for you and the women you love.

Take the time to become breast self-aware, schedule that doctor’s appointment you’ve been too busy for, and gather your family’s cancer history. And stay committed to minding your melons year-round by signing up for our monthly text message reminders to check your breasts: Underwire Alerts. Simply text PINK to 59227 to enroll now.

We hope you join us at the VIPink fashion show on Oct. 19 at Saks Fifth Avenue, 700 N. Michigan, where all funds raised support Bright Pink and our efforts to encourage young women everywhere to take action. (Tickets: VIPinkChicago.com)

The Sun-Times is the media sponsor of VIPink. The Sun-Times Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust will match donations to Bright Pink up to a total of $5,000 through January 1, 2013. Suntimesfoundation.org/brightpink



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