1994 was a very difficult year for Dawn Anderson. Both her mother and her grandmother died of breast cancer, within just six months of each other. She learned firsthand that people who care for those with cancer are deeply affected by the outcome.
“Cancer’s impact permeates the lives of everyone who loves someone who is waging their own personal battle with the disease,” said Anderson. “They are survivors too.”
Anderson waged her battle with the disease by urging others to join her in the fight. She started volunteering, and eventually ended up acting as the board chair of the North Shore Relay for Life. That’s when she was approached to run the Wisconsin Breast Cancer Coalition. It was her first job outside the home since she had started raising her children, but she was ready for the task: “I jumped right in. When you volunteer, you are passionate about it already.”
She said the work doesn’t pay a lot, but that’s okay with her. “You do it for the love.”
Now she’s teaching that passion to others from throughout southeastern Wisconsin. She leads 40 to 50 survivors/activists to Madison and Capitol Hill every year to lobby legislators on the importance of breast cancer research and funding. Anderson said it’s critical to have advocates and survivors at the table when decisions are being made.
She also urges survivors to realize that they don’t need to be high-powered lobbyists to make things happen: “You actually carry more weight as a constituent than somebody who just waltzes in there.”
Anderson and her team are getting ready to train more activists. On Saturday, October 23, the Wisconsin Breast Cancer Coalition will host a “Beyond the Pink Ribbon” Advocacy Seminar & Luncheon to train breast cancer survivors and their allies. According to Anderson, the program will include how to communicate effectively with legislators, and the nuts and bolts of the legislative and budget-making process at the state and federal levels.
Anderson tells me that the event is designed so that anyone could walk out with the advocacy tools they need to approach an elected official on any subject.
“It’s important for people to get involved,” said Anderson. “Awareness is not good enough. We need action.”
To learn more about this event, visit www.standupandspeakout.org.