Much of the public effort surrounding breast cancer involves raising money for research and awareness. But for people who are diagnosed with the disease – and their families – the needs are often much more personal.
A Milwaukee-based organization is building national momentum through its effort to provide personal mentorship to breast cancer patients and their loved ones.
Mark Young is the president of the organization known as ABCD – After Breast Cancer Diagnosis. He says mentorship is the group's "signature service."
"Our mission is to provide personalized one-to-one support for patients, families and friends who are affected by breast cancer," he says.
The program matches volunteers, who are breast cancer survivors or affected family members, with patients to provide support based on similar experiences. The mentors provide guidance and answer questions (though they do not provide medical advice). Young says mentors can refer patients to resources and talk through the many decisions that have to be made.
Young, who is also an attorney with Habush, Habush, and Rottier, is the first man to head the group. He says the group does reach out to men; about two to four percent of breast cancer diagnoses are in men.
But Young also has been involved with ABCD for years - after his wife, Erica, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999. A nurse referred the couple to the program, but there were no mentors at the time who had her type of rare breast cancer. So she became a mentor herself and the family became full supporters of ABCD. After she passed in 2005, Young continued the family's work with the group and is "lucky" to have been tapped for its leader.
Young says ABCD's approach is gaining interest and support nationally - particularly through its national helpline: 1-800-977-4121.