When people hear about the Big “C,” they think about treatments and the medical breakdown of the diagnosis. But in the opinion of Lynae Dodson, founder of breast cancer survivorship group I’m Taking Charge, not enough people are asking about what happens after cancer.
Dodson’s nonprofit organization has rapidly become a safe haven for compassion by providing information, support, and help for those concerned with post-cancer life.
“We didn’t realize how much the women were suffering in silence until they started finding us,” Dodson said. “We wanted to provide women with knowledge, education, and information – first of all, for their rights. There’s not a lot in cancer treatment that you get to choose.”
A team composed of writers, physicians, and survivors provides the organization with empowering survivor stories, informative medical articles, podcasts, and videos that serve as references when contemplating long-term health and comfort decisions.
“We’ve empowered [patients] to have a choice,” Dodson said. “We love having a community where others have been through the process – they share their struggles and some of the things that helped them.”
Dodson said she was inspired to shine a light on the commonly overlooked topics of recovery and reconstruction after her mother battled breast cancer in 2015. Prior to her mother’s diagnosis, Dodson had already been working at a medical device company, where she interviewed more than 150 breast cancer survivors about post-treatment support, knowledge, and goals.
“About two-thirds of the women I spoke to never once received information about reconstruction,” she said. “Once the woman’s done with treatment, they’re kind of left to put the pieces back together.”
In 2014, a total of 236,968 women were diagnosed with breast cancer, according to a CDC report. Of those diagnosed, over 82 percent survived. Based on Dodson’s mother’s journey and on the testimonies of other survivors, throughout cancer treatment, patients weren’t really asked about their long-term hopes, fears, and confusions surrounding their bodies.
“Close your eyes, spin around, and point to someone – odds are that they’ve been impacted by breast cancer in some way,” she said. “You realize that nobody’s addressing the after-cancer. There’s a huge divorce rate among women who’ve had breast cancer; there’s many women going back into the dating scene with no breasts. There’s all these issues.”
Breast cancer survivors often face a lack of confidence in their physical appearance after undergoing a mastectomy.
“I still have insecurities about my mastectomy scars and how I look,” said educator, speaker, and writer Jessica Grono said in a blog post. “I am not so sure how long that will take, but it might take years to get there. I’m going to take it day by day and actively prevent myself from giving in to my insecurities.”
The experience of enduring treatments can lead to significant adjustment and relationship difficulties that result in feelings of greater conflict and less intimacy, according to a medical report by psychosomatics and psychotherapy professor Tanja Zimmermann.
Dodson’s organization’s mission is to empower women to take back what cancer stole from them, such as comfort and ownership of their post-cancer body image. But delving deeper, it’s about finding a sense of balance and security in one’s own psyche after battling the disease. To Dodson, the organization serves a gateway for information and a community willing and open to help others reach that level of control.
“[ITC] is not just about a physical connection,” Dodson said. “It’s an emotional connection for a lot of women. The work is about finally giving women power to choose for themselves.”
I’m Taking Charge is an organization that raises awareness of something often not considered, and it takes women like Lynae Dodson to bring this issue to the forefront and help women find their confidence.
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