Meet Some of Our Community Leaders for Change

Our Community Leaders for Change program continues to grow and we’re honored to introduce you to several more activists who have joined. For more information about the Community Leaders for Change program or to become a Community Leader, please contact Sahru Keiser at 415-243-9301 x14 or skeiser@bcaction.org.

Jeanette Koncikowski, Buffalo, NY

Jeanette Koncikowski

Jeanette Koncikowski

My mother passed away from breast cancer in 2012. She had two different kinds of breast cancer over 12 years. My mom’s youngest sister, who was my godmother, also died from it. My mom found a circle of support and gathered strength from the pink ribbon/survivor subculture. I, on the other hand, as a feminist, community health educator, and her daughter, who watched how breast cancer devastated her body and mind, did not. I was bothered that so few people in my locale seemed to question the associated cause marketing, the social inequities/disparities, and the sexualization of the disease. I was angry that two women who I loved deeply were taken from this Earth too soon. I wanted to DO something besides take a walk or buy a pink product. I happened upon a BCAction webinar about Think Before You Pink® and I felt like I had finally found my philosophical tribe.

I became a Community Leader for Change because I needed an outlet to turn my anger into action. I’ve also worked as a trainer on other women’s public health issues during my career and I knew I had skills and experience to contribute. Becoming a Community Leader allows me to raise my voice and talk back to the cancer industry.

I absolutely believe that prevention is the cure. I have rid my house of off-gassing carpets, and PVCs, and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s). But I live in Buffalo, New York, which has one of the country’s highest rates of cancer because of our “industrial heritage.” There are 26 Superfund sites in my county and the one next door. We must create systemic changes to protect the next generation.

My goal is to create a tribe in Buffalo and Western New York that will mobilize to fight the polluters in our back yard; that will harness the power of social media to move offline into community and legislative action, and that will welcome with open arms anyone living with or affected by breast cancer who needs a safe space to drop their warrior shields, pink ribbons, and required optimistic outlooks.

To anyone considering getting involved: stop underestimating the power of your voice. Join us because we need you!

Linda Burnett, Boston, MA

Linda Burnett

Linda Burnett

I am the daughter of a woman who was diagnosed twice with breast cancer and eventually died from it. I have also had dozens of friends and acquaintance who have had breast cancer through the years. I have been outraged for decades about the bottom-drawer attention this disease gets from the medical establishment and the barbarity of the treatment options.

Many years ago, I heard [former BCAction executive director] Barbara Brenner speak somewhere in Cambridge, MA and was immediately intrigued by the mission of BCAction and its grassroots philosophy. Several years later, when I went to another breast cancer organization’s annual conference in DC and learned that they get huge funding from the Avon Corporation, I turned away from these organizations.

So now I have decided to put my breast cancer dollars and energy into BCAction (and to a lesser degree, Silent Spring here in Newton) and wish I had more energy and skill to help expose the BS behind the breast cancer industry!

I was attracted to Community Leaders for Change because I thought that, rather than just going on a tirade when someone talks about the Avon or Komen or American Cancer Society walk, I might actually be able to focus my energy and share information with groups of interested people. As it turns out, I have been thrilled to participate and help with local events that BCAction has organized.

If someone were considering joining the Community Leaders for Change, I would tell them that it’s a fabulous concept. If someone has connections in local healthcare or comes from/represents an underserved or vulnerable community, please join because many times these communities are hit the hardest by the impacts of breast cancer.

Marie Garlock, Chapel Hill, NC

Marie with her mother, Barbara.

Marie Garlock with her mother, Barbara.

I am a PhD student and health communication researcher, and a performer and ethnographer working with people facing metastatic cancers, including breast cancer. Currently, I’m a teaching fellow at UNC-Chapel Hill and an apprentice dancer with the African-American Dance Ensemble. Through my PhD research, I lead health communication and movement and story performance workshops in a method called “InterPlay” for patients, caregivers, and health providers facing stage IV cancers — people with uniquely powerful, under-heard perspectives on shifting cancer’s status quo in the U.S. and internationally. I’m lucky to collaborate with North Carolina’s Forward Together/Moral Mondays on links of health and environmental justice, and to honor people in my family and state whose lives were lost or for whom cancer worsened during a gap in health insurance coverage.

I learned about BCAction through my vibrant mom Barbara Garlock, a lifelong leader for health access, and a talented justice advocate who faced stage IV breast cancer pretty miraculously for almost 7 years, before passing on in 2013. I want the things that helped her — including patient advocacy, expansion beyond “pink” consumer-philanthropy, and anti-toxicity activism aligned with BCAction’s priorities — to tangibly help other women and their families who face breast cancer now. Through BCAction’s Community Leaders for Change I hope to link more people in the southern U.S. (and research colleagues globally) with the life-giving, game-changing resources BCAction offers in efforts to “stop cancer where it starts” for people of every race, gender, and income.

My personal philosophy about ending the breast cancer epidemic is inspired by my best friend and mom Barbara, who boldly lived this question everyday: “As people facing breast cancer, how do we expand our definition of health to include both health justice and healing? Healing includes our personal bodies, and our cultural, economic, and political bodies.”
My goal as a Community Leader is to engage people in becoming “activated” within their own circumstances, to begin collectively redefining what breast cancer advocacy looks like. I’d tell other interested in Community Leaders for Change: let’s do this together, with creativity and spunk … come on board!

Read Marie’s article about fracking and breast cancer in this newsletter issue. 

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