Earlier this month I had the joy and privilege of interviewing Dr. Susan Love. She’s truly an amazing woman who, like many of us, wears many hats in her life. Dr. Love is a surgeon, the author of the top-selling Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book, a breast cancer advocate, and the president of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation – a great organization that focuses on breast cancer prevention and research into eradicating the disease. She’s also a cancer survivor herself.
Dr. Love wants to change the way we approach breast cancer, so as you can imagine, we had a lot to talk about! Here’s a snippet of what we discussed:
Elissa: You’re not only a cancer prevention advocate and researcher – you’re a survivor who went through daunting treatments last year, including a bone marrow transplant. What were some of the things that kept your spirits up?
Susan: My family was wonderful and was there for me every step of the way. I was almost never alone in the hospital over the first seven weeks and second four. They took shifts. We would watch funny movies and TV shows and walk laps around the hospital floor together. My room was decorated with family pictures and even the IV pole that I was almost constantly hooked up to, was decorated with garlands, flags and other meaningful tokens.
Elissa: You have been campaigning for prevention and not just awareness of breast cancer for years. Do you see signs that organizations are listening? What, if anything has changed this October?
Susan: This October we have asked Komen for the Cure, Young Survival Coalition and other groups to work with us to document the collateral damage of treatment in an effort to demonstrate that the cure comes with a cost. I am hoping this will help shift the message that the cure is fine, but not getting cancer in the first place would be even better!
Elissa: What good stuff do you make time to enjoy no matter how busy you get after your experience?
Susan: I now try to take time to make more time for friends and family. Previously I would travel and give a talk, or go to a meeting, and head right home. Now I try to think about whom I know in that town that I might want to reconnect with. I try to reach out more to my family around the country to rekindle connections.
Elissa: What have you learned in the past year that has given you more wisdom for your life and work ahead?
Susan: I have learned how we are all in this together. About three months prior to my diagnosis with leukemia, I gave a speech to a group of scientists, entrepreneurs, and clinicians saying that, “The difference between a researcher and a patient is a diagnosis”. Three months later I got a diagnosis! This is not about us and them; it is about us…all of us! We need to be working together to figure out what the priorities of research should be and how to get it done.
Elissa: What are some exciting projects we can look forward to seeing from the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation this year?
Susan: I have realized since my diagnosis that advocacy groups cannot afford to work in silos any more. We are reaching out to make collaborations on particular projects so that we can move things forward together. We are putting out a call for women to send in the questions they want to see answered regarding the collateral damage of treatment. We will put them together in a module through the Health Of Women (HOW) study, our online cohort. Here we collect data from women with and without breast cancer, and it will allow us to document the true cost of the cure and why prevention is a better option.
Susan: There are lots of ways. Send us your questions that you want us to ask in our collateral damage study. Participating in our HOW Study. Or participate in the Puma #ProjectPink campaign, which allows Facebook members to vote daily for the organization they most support.
Elissa: What do you believe to be your greatest accomplishment at DSLRF?
Susan: We have started to move research from petri dishes and lab animals into women. The Army of Women, now 371,000 strong, has shown that women with and without breast cancer are willing to participate in research; now the Health of Women study (HOW) is collecting data on 41,000 with and without a breast cancer diagnosis to help determine the cause. You can join us and become part of the generation that ends breast cancer once and for all!
The Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation’s groundbreaking research is focused on finding the cause of breast cancer and stopping it before it starts. Right now, women interested in helping can sign up for The Army of Women of the Health of Women studies on their website.