My participation in the Solano County Pageant was not only to bring a fun, new experience to my life, but primarily to have a platform for action and positive change on meaningful topics close to my heart. When you are wearing a sash and crown, people notice you and many stop to chat. Often times, this provides an opportunity for me to share a bit about my story and a new fact or two. For particularly supportive individuals, I suggest a follow-up action like checking out a non-profit website or this blog hoping to engage them in advocacy or lifestyle changes, as well. My hope is that these small, consistent actions add up to be much more than the sum of the parts.
So what exactly are these topics I feel strongly about and why? I thought it would be fair to lay those out at a high level instead of assuming everyone can read between the lines from my life experience 🙂
Primarily through my experiences with cancer and as a women in male dominated career fields, I have a few causes that are particularly close to my heart. These are the topics I show up to events for, advocate for legislative change on, speak publicly about using my story, and share the information I have in hopes of educating those around me. Please find a list with brief personal explanation below:
Finding the Cure for Stage IV (Metastatic) Breast Cancer: I often use the phrase “there are treatments, but no cure” when discussing my diagnosis. Technically, my diagnosis is terminal but I have no imminent expectation of death because I still have treatment options at this time. When most people think of cancer they assume 1 of 2 things: 1. It’s a “curable cancer” and everything will be ok after some *possibly awful* treatment 2. It’s not a “curable cancer” and things are going to get bad quickly. I fall into a third lesser known or understood category. My Cancer is incurable. However, there are a reasonable amount of treatment options that can extend my life for years, if not decades. Cancer is a crafty asshole that mutates over time and eventually becomes resistant to each treatment. How long each treatment will work is highly uncertain leaving an overall uncertain situation for my health. Finding the cure, or at least better treatments that could make this diagnosis truly chronic, is the key to mine and the hundreds of thousands of estimated women living with this disease’s continued survival.
- Affordable Access to Healthcare: Being an extremely low-risk patient and still receiving an advanced Breast Cancer diagnosis at 29 is a very humbling experience. It makes you realize truly how blessed those are with good health, how quickly anyone can move from “healthy” to “not”, how little control one has over this, and how important healthcare for everyone is given this reality. What I’m truly passionate about is creating a sustainable healthcare system here in America (which is a necessary requirement to extend affordable access to healthcare), but this starts to sound like “shop talk” quickly. Professionally, I’ve spent years designing systems for Health and Human Services program eligibility. If you’re a professional with healthcare, health policy, or related field, I’d love to chat further and nerd out on this topic.
Eliminating toxic chemicals and radiation from our everyday environment including cosmetics, cleaning products, food supply, etc.: Finding myself with a Breast Cancer diagnosis at 29 for which doctors can provide no fabulous explanation, I’ve started becoming more aware and open to the science linking a ton of chemicals in our everyday lives to Cancer, hormone disruption, and a host of other health issues. Did you know that the United States only outlaws about 30 chemicals in cosmetics while the EU outlaws more than 1400 because they are dangerous to human health? Before Cancer I was somewhat aware of this information but found it more convenient to ignore as it requires learning to be a more savvy consumer and other subtle lifestyle changes. Cancer has opened my eyes and I’ve now embarked on the process of cleaning up my own personal environment to the extent possible and advocating for other changes to these industries. I don’t think there should be products on the shelves with known Cancer-causing ingredients as there widely are today.
Empowering Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Fields & Leadership Positions: I think it is incredibly important for women to encourage and support one another in these traditionally male-dominated fields. I personally work in Information Technology (IT). At every opportunity I get, I encourage young women to consider one of these career paths and support other women already in the field.
- Equal Pay for Equal Work: When adjusted for workforce factors (like education level, long-term leave, etc.), data shows that women consistently make less than men on the dollar in almost every field. This is just silly and frustrates me as a woman out there working just as hard as my male counterparts. Many large corporations are making strides to address this and other inequalities in female representation in the workforce (which is very encouraging), but there is still work to be done!
You can see these causes reflected in the non-profit organizations I work with on my Advocacy & Community Service Page. Over time, I’ll provide more in-depth and timely information on these topics. If you have any specific questions, please feel free to post them in the comments and I’d be happy to elaborate!