In 2009 my mom, Diane, was diagnosed with breast cancer. This shook me to my core and has, quite obviously, fundamentally changed my life. This was the first time I saw my mom as mortal. And the first time I saw my dad cry.
I was very involved in mom’s treatment and recovery, to say it lightly. I was a research machine; I read every book, blog and article I could get my hands on. This is indicative of my generation. We help how we can, with what we know, and we know the digital space and social media. So I made sure that FC harnessed the power of the youth and invited them into a conversation that no one really includes us in.
After her first surgery I made mom a shirt that said Fuck Cancer. To me, the shirt said, “Yes, I have cancer – but no, I won’t go down without one hell of a fight.” It said, “I am not a patient – I am a survivor.” It was something that I thought she’d wear privately, at home, while recovering. I should have known better. Being the firecracker she is, as soon as she was well enough to get her hands over her head and put on a t-shirt (more accurately, let me put one on her), mom wore it everywhere.
My mom isn’t the kind of woman to say fuck, let alone wear the word fuck, so I was shocked when she wore it in public. But that wasn’t the most shocking part. People’s reactions were! People hugged her, high fived her, wanted to hear her story and share theirs. I always joke (but am secretly very serious) that I knew we had something special when strangers would hug mom – it takes a hell of a lot for a stranger to hug another stranger in our society. These two words were really powerful, and resonated far beyond my family. It allowed people to be brave and vulnerable and I wanted to do good with it. So I started Fuck Cancer.
Why didn’t I just support an existing charity? I thought about it, hard. But ultimately, I found most existing cancer organizations were research-focused, which is incredibly important, but not my fight. I’m not a researcher so couldn’t contribute scientifically and couldn’t raise the billions of dollars needed to find a cure. I can, however, change the way society perceives cancer; from something we wait to get and pray there’s a cure to something we’re actively working to prevent, actively looking for and finding when it’s most curable.
Early detection is what saved my mom’s life and it’s where I felt I could make a real impact and really help people.
Everything we build is for our community; it’s what they’ve told us they need and what we anticipate they will need. Beyond education, I wanted community. I wanted to create a safe space for people to say what they were actually feeling, not what society told them they should be.
Thank you to the unbelievable community of highly active, motivated, and passionate supporters who’ve grown with us. I can’t wait to see what we create together in the coming years.
- Yael Cohen