Vallejo City Unified School District Resolution
I was asked by my father if I would help him present Vallejo City Unified School District Resolution No. 2775 recognizing October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month and say a few words about my own story at tonight’s school board meeting. I happily signed up for the opportunity to share my story and advocate for a cause I care about deeply. Please find my remarks from the evening below:
Thank you for having me here tonight. My name is Brandi Rhoads, daughter of Michael Rhoads, fearless leader of the CSEA chapter here in Vallejo. My father has worked for this district since I was a little girl and cares a great deal about it so participating in this resolution is a great honor for me.
Many of you who are close with my father are also aware of my health issues. A little over three years ago, in my late 20’s, I was blindsided with an advanced Breast Cancer diagnosis. I went through treatment including chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation and was in remission for about two years.
Unfortunately, my Breast Cancer came back. I’m now living with Stage IV, otherwise known as Metastatic, Breast Cancer. This is the most advanced stage of the disease. It means that the Breast Cancer has spread beyond the breast region to other parts of the body – in my case, my bones and liver. There are treatments, but there is no cure. I will be in treatment for the rest of my uncertain life.
As part of the resolution, you just heard many of the commonly shared statistics on Breast Cancer. I’d like to add a human element to these statistics and also add a couple of my own.
Every year over 230 thousand individuals are diagnosed with Breast Cancer. That’s almost double the population of Vallejo – every single year. Those 200 plus thousand include women like me. Diagnosed Young. Otherwise Healthy. Ambitious and have everything else going for them. It also includes women and men of all ages, weights, races, with and without genetic mutations. The causes of Breast Cancer are not well understood and it affects every demographic. With 1 in 8 women diagnosed in their lifetime, the statistics say it will affect you or your family at some point.
Here’s a new statistic for you: Did you know an estimated 30% of early stage Breast Cancer patients will have a re-occurrence to Stage IV or Metastatic Breast Cancer, sometimes decades after their initial diagnosis. Doctors do not understand why this happens for some individuals and not others after the same treatment regimes. This is what happened to me.
The resolution also shared that every year we lose over 40 thousand individuals. That amounts to over 100 individuals per day. All of these losses are from Stage IV or Metastatic Breast Cancer. Even with treatments, I too will become part of this number long before I should otherwise leave this Earth. This is why we need continued research to find a cure and end this loss of life.
In the meantime, I’m determined to continue to live my life to the fullest of my ability. On top of treatments, I work full-time in my career as an IT consultant in Sacramento, travel, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Cancer has thrown my life in a strange direction that I can’t control so I thought I would up it one by participating in my first Beauty Pageant, the Solano County Pageant, at 32 years old. The Solano County Pageant is a women’s empowerment program intended to develop life skills for the younger contestants, like public speaking, and encourage community service. By sharing my cancer story and desire to contribute to Breast Cancer advocacy work – I took home the crown. Since I began my reign as Ms. Vacaville, my hometown, I’ve been able to use my crown as an effective and fun advocacy tool working primarily with the American Cancer Society. In fact, if you’re up for the drive to Sacramento, I will be cutting the ribbon to begin the Sacramento Making Strides Against Breast Cancer on October 22.
As we recognize Breast Cancer Awareness month please remember the real reason for all the pink and understand that it impacts us all. I’d like to personally thank my father’s colleagues for supporting him throughout this unexpected and difficult journey for our family. Thank you for inviting me to speak and share a bit about my experience.
Happy Breast Cancer Awareness month everyone!