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Finding Sisterhood at the Young Survival Coalition Conference

From left to right: Jennifer Merschdorf (Young Survival Coalition CEO), Jane Magaoay (Hawaii State Leader), Joanne Hayashi (Hawaii State Leader), Amanda Nixon (Regional Outreach Manager, West Region)

Young Survival Coalition (YSC) held its 3-day annual summit in Orlando, Florida. I had the privilege of attending this summit in February, along with Joanne. Honestly, it was my first time attending a conference; let alone, traveling by myself. Yes, there was a little bit of anxiety, but I made it through knowing that I was going to learn a lot from this trip and be able to share the knowledge with fellow survivors and their co-survivors. I have to say, it was a trip I will never forget – very educational and empowering.

Young Survival Coalition (YSC) is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1998 by three young women who were diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 35. Throughout the years, YSC has provided resources (educational materials, online support groups, volunteer opportunities, etc.) and tools for young women with breast cancer and their family. This year marks their 20 years. With that said, Congratulations YSC for 20 years and wishing you many more!!!

After going through my treatments in 2015, I was very fortunate to have found YSC while surfing the web. The resources available are very educational – not just for a survivor, but for their family as well. I received a booklet “Post-Treatment Navigator,” which provided information that helps with what to expect after the treatments are over. A few months after finding their website, I became involved with YSC, thanks to Joanne who motivated me to become more active in reaching out to others by providing information to our fellow young survivors and the community.

Being diagnosed with breast cancer at 35, most of the resources out there do not tackle the issues young women face. For example, some issues are, fertility; career; managing long-term side-effects; and long-term survivorship (for me, it’s hoping to live beyond 80). I believe it is important to be an advocate for your own health. Because of that, these issues are very important to me, and having to have experienced them, I knew I wanted to do more to help others. YSC also provides volunteer opportunities, such as becoming a State Leader, coordinating a Face 2 Face peer support group in your own community (local meetups); and hosting a table at a health fair just to name a few. Today, Joanne and I are Volunteer State Leaders with the YSC.

There is a YSC Face 2 Face peer support group on Oahu that Joanne coordinates. When diagnosed with breast cancer, sometimes it may be difficult to find other young survivors to reach out to. This Face 2 Face group provides support and allows us to encourage each other as we go through our individual journey. It is comforting and empowering at the same time. For more information about the group or if you want to join us, please contact us.


"I made new friends and found a bond of sisterhood

that will last a whole lifetime"


“Empowering,” is the first thought that comes to mind when asked about the YSC conference. The conference was a weekend event filled with pertinent information, fun, and love – sisterhood at its best. These women in the summit were not only surviving, but thriving in their own journey. Whether they are advocates, volunteers, or involved in their community, we are all united in getting the word out that “young women can and do get breast cancer.” At the conference, I was able to attend breakout sessions such as, “Young and Worried: Confronting Fear of Recurrence”, as well as attend one of the general sessions – “What’s the Medical and Research Buzz?” just to name a few. Oncologists, Psychologists, Sex Therapists, and Researchers were among the speakers at the summit. One of our favorite sessions, "Living Fully Long Term" has been uploaded by YSC and is available for anyone to view. The session facilitated by Julie Larsen, LCSW, explains the range of emotions commonly experienced by survivors and how to honor your experience while moving forward.

Aside from the sessions, we were able to network with amazing survivors, as well as check out the exhibitors on site. On our second night, there was also dinner and dance party – a good way to meet others and just to have fun. Because it was my first time, I made new friends and found a bond of sisterhood that will last a whole lifetime. What I loved the most about having to attend this conference is not just learning about new things, but meeting people of all walks of life. These women did not let cancer define them. In fact, everything about the conference had an atmosphere of love, hope, strength, understanding, and a positive attitude. It reminded me of a quote by Vivian Greene, which happens to be one of my favorite – “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to attend this conference. I am looking forward to next year’s summit, which will be held in Austin, Texas. Hope to see you there!

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