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Breast Cancer Doesn’t Care What Kind of Plans You Have

The team behind MyHealthTeams. From left to right: Andrew Jacob, Paul Nock, Eric Peacock (co-founder) and Mary Ray (co-founder).

Mary is co-founder of MyHealthTeams, a San Francisco company that creates social networks for chronic condition communities. The first site launched was MyAutismTeam, a social network for parents of kids with autism. Recently, MyHealthTeams launched MyBCTeam, a social network for women facing breast cancer. Mary currently lives San Francisco, CA with her husband and two dogs. 

Lauren had a penchant for being organized, prepared, and ready to handle whatever life threw her way. So when the 26-year-old got engaged to her best friend Dmitriy, she decided to plan their wedding herself. In no time, Lauren had reserved a wedding spot, picked out her dress, nailed down their honeymoon plans to Italy, and was checking off the myriad of to-do’s for the event. Then, just two months after the engagement, Lauren felt a lump. At first she ignored it. Then, it grew. After a visit to the doctors, she got the call at work. It was breast cancer. Within two weeks she had a lumpectomy. The results came back – they didn’t get the clear margins they were looking for. It really hit her – this was bad. She was eight months away from wedding. Everything had been planned, but cancer has a way of not caring about your plans or anyone else’s.

She threw herself into research, as she faced decisions about treatment and reconstruction surgery: one nipple? Two? One breast? Two? None? She wanted to be able to connect with someone her own age, who had her same diagnosis, who had been through the same treatment decision process she was going through. But at the time, there was nothing available to her. Five major surgeries later, Lauren and Dmitriy walked down the aisle, cancer-free. By the pictures, you couldn’t tell the emotional and physical toll the earlier months had taken. Lauren says it was life-changing. The process wasn’t easy. She felt alone.  She was overwhelmed by the intense decision-making with no one near her age who could relate. She soon found her social support system drop away, because her friends simply didn’t know how to handle the situation, and she didn’t know how to help them know either. Lauren liked things organized and planned. At one point, she wanted to just cry on the floor and be left alone. She was on so much medication, and had so much to deal with, she thought surely her fight or flight mode would kick in and give her the extra boost and perspective she needed. It didn’t kick in, yet she found the strength to get through it all. Finally, her wedding day arrived, and when she saw family and friends she hadn’t seen together in years, she felt relief. Her wedding day wasn’t just about a marriage to her best friend, it was a celebration of her life, it was a celebration of the gratitude Lauren felt.

This summer, Lauren and Dmitriy celebrated their 1st wedding anniversary, and she recently joined, a free social network for women facing breast cancer. Whether newly diagnosed or 15 years out from cancer, women facing breast cancer can connect with women like Lauren, who’ve been in their shoes: diagnosed, busy with life, overwhelmed, scared, and just looking for life-affirming words of experience that it will be okay. Women use like Facebook. They share their daily ups and downs. They share their very personal stories about their breast cancer experience, their recommendations of providers, their treatment decision-making process, and even better, they are available to answer questions. MyBCTeam believes it should be easy to find the best people around you to help. That includes women who understand exactly what you’re going through and the team of providers that can help you through treatment. There are women as young as 18 and as old as 65 on the site. Each is able to connect with someone who has been in their shoes. At times women feel closer to the community than even friends or families. And while in-person support groups can also be valuable, when you’re going through treatment, you may not have the energy to get in a car and drive to a meeting. lets you connect with women 24/7. And if you’re on the go or constantly in waiting rooms, MyBCTeam is also available on mobile (iPhone/iPad and Android Smartphones).

“I wish MyBCTeam was around two years ago, but I’m glad it’s here now, especially since I’m still coming to terms with just how much this process has impacted my life.”

Whose world will you change?