Interview by Sarah Harding, BCAction Development Director
Editor’s note: JoAnn Loulan is a psychotherapist with a 20-year practice in Portola Valley, California. She is a long-time Breast Cancer Action (BCAction) member who has served on BCAction’s Board of Directors and is currently on the Development Committee.
Now there’s a simple question. I’m a two-time cancer survivor with a mother who died at 53 of breast cancer. Also on my mother’s side, I had an aunt, grandmother and great aunt who had breast cancer. My great aunt died at 53 of esophageal cancer. I’ve been surrounded by cancer my whole life. I got breast cancer the first time at 45 and again last year at 62. The idea of “surviving” and “living with” cancer are for me the same. I don’t consider it over, ever. Breast cancer can come back any time. I consider the experience to be right there, very vivid and very real.
How much do I think cancer sucks? A LOT! So I’m driven to do something besides worry and try to make a difference. I feel I have an opportunity to help change the course of this epidemic, and I intend to do just that. I’m certainly not just going to sit here and let it happen.
Because I’ve been an activist since I was 13, and I have been doing more and more as I grow older in a series of causes. The model that BCAction follows, which is to put people before profits, is my battle cry. I love that BCAction takes no money from companies that profit financially from cancer, especially pharmaceutical companies. This policy was the reason we were able to be the only breast cancer organization that could join the ACLU in challenging Myriad Genetics for the rights to own our genes. We’re pure and can stand up to anyone. I have a friend at Genentech who would love for us to take money from them. She told me “We don’t tell you what to do with the money or that you can’t be independent.” I asked her if any of the organizations that Genentech gives money to challenged their petition to the FDA to use Avastin – like BCAction did — as a treatment for breast cancer. She thought for a moment and then started laughing “Of course not!” There you go! I rest my case.
What inspired you to host an annual event benefitting BCAction?
My mother, Billie Gardner Loulan, died of the disease when she was 53 — 13 years after her diagnosis. I also live in a community that for the most part is a community of means and is also very generous and philanthropic. Sadly, too many of us in my town have also been affected by cancer. In honor of my mother and everyone who has been affected by the disease, I decided to host a small luncheon. I felt this could be a way that I could share with others in my community the unique and important work of BCAction and also raise money for them. My first event was nearly eight years ago. I had no clue what to expect. I started out by inviting my friends and asking them to invite their friends. The event caught on, and with the help of many from my little town, I am proud to say that together we’ve raised over $400,000 for Breast Cancer Action! This year, I am adding an additional evening event and hoping to raise even more.
What advice would you give others who are interested in supporting BCAction?
Figure out something that you feel you can do and just do it! Start small, and get a few friends to help. There are so many ways you can get involved: host a small informative event, introduce someone to BCAction, or raise money for Breast Cancer Action by directing family and friends to donate in lieu of holiday gifts this season. Whatever it is, it will be meaningful and have a huge impact. I am a fighter and I intend to fight this until I die of very old age.
And I want to say to everyone reading this: Will you join me? BCAction depends on the support of you and me to continue working to end the epidemic. They are such a necessary voice and they are worthy because they are an independent, no “b.s” voice.
To make a donation this holiday season, click here.
The Source—Fall/Winter 2011 | 12.14.11© 2011, Breast Cancer Action ISSN #1993-2408, published quarterly by BCAction. Articles on detection and treatment do not constitute endorsements or medical advice but are intended solely to inform. Requested annual donation is $50, but no one is refused for lack of funds. “Breast Cancer Action”, “Think Before You Pink” and the BCAction logo are the registered trademarks of Breast Cancer Action. All rights reserved. Not to be used without express written permission.