Meet Melissa Miller, a JLW member who blew her friends and family away with her sheer positivity and force of life when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015 at just 27 years old. Facing a terrifying diagnosis and difficult treatment, Melissa fought back with optimism and determination. During and since her recovery, Melissa has served as an inspiration and role model to other young women facing the same diagnosis. She has selflessly devoted her time and energy to raising awareness and funds for breast cancer research and support. Read on to hear the story of how Melissa has touched the lives of so many women.
As a patient, how did you find the time or motivation to connect to others as an advocate for cancer awareness?
Being diagnosed with breast cancer at such a young age was a very isolating experience, so spreading awareness with my story was a way for me to feel not so alone. In opening up and sharing my personal struggles, fears and victories with my network of friends and family, I ended up connecting with a lot of other young patients and survivors and became a part of a very special community. Becoming a champion for breast cancer awareness, especially among young women, was a natural progression for me. I didn’t know that this could happen to me at only 27 years old, and I didn’t want it to happen to anyone else.
How have you benefited from your advocacy work?
Becoming an advocate has helped me to gracefully move on to this next phase of my cancer “journey.” Life after treatment is hard and confusing: going from being a patient to a survivor comes with a whole new set of worries and fears. In raising money for The Pink Agenda and volunteering as a member of the Sibley Young Professional Board, I’m able to channel that energy into something positive.
The breast cancer community seems so close-knit and supportive. What do you think is so vital about women supporting other women?
We women need to stick together and advocate for one another to overcome the barriers that we face. In raising each other up and supporting one another, rather than competing or putting each other down, we create something strong and amazing. I’ve never felt more empowered than when I have had other women standing by my side raising me up. There is something special about the bond of women.
How do you see that special bond live out in Junior League?
The relationships that I have formed during my membership in the League are so special to me. Not only have I found amazing friendship in other members, but I have expanded my personal and professional network in meeting smart, talented women I wouldn’t have otherwise had the chance to know.