, , ,

You have most likely heard of Livestrong, and could even be wearing the famed yellow bracelet as you read this post.  But many people don’t realize the core mission of the amazing organization started by Lance Armstrong, or the many ways to get involved.  Livestrong not only works to put an end to cancer, they also provide assistance to ANYONE who thinks they may have cancer and work with you every step of the way, from early detection to final-stage treatments.  Brooke McMillan, the ‘Online Community Evangelist’ for the organization spoke with me about the programs they have that are tailored for just about every issue that arises around cancer.

Love+Water- How did Lance form Livestrong while undergoing cancer treatments himself?

Brooke McMillan- In 1996, Lance was diagnosed with testicular cancer, advanced stage.  Before he was finished with treatments, he met with a group of friends and people in the Austin community about starting a foundation.  He wasn’t sure what is was going to look like or how to do it, and originally it was a testicular cancer-focused organization.  In the early 2000’s we started to focus on survivorship post-treatment, meaning people who are in the middle of or had finished treatment for any form of cancer.  We still have a very large survivorship focus, and are now moving into targeting cancer as a whole.

L+W- What is the core mission?

BM- Our mission overall is to inspire and empower people affected by cancer.  We do that through programs such as educational efforts, advocating on Capital Hill for folks affected by cancer, teaching people how to advocate for themselves and providing one-on-one support for people and families affected by cancer.  You can call us at anytime to talk to a professional if you have questions about how to seek the proper medical help, how to receive support in your area and any other questions you may have for yourself or a loved one affected by cancer.  We help people who are having problems with insurance as well, which is a huge part of our program and one that I encourage people to take advantage of.  We don’t want anyone to not get an exam or the treatment they need because they are afraid they can’t afford it.  We can help in that area.

L+W- How can people find resources available to them locally?

BM- First, we help anyone over the phone locate places in their community that can offer them support.  They just have to call the number on our website and we will do a search for them as well as help them each step of the way.  Secondly, we are in the process of opening a new patient navigation center here in Austin, TX to walk people through the resources available to them locally, and we hope to replicate that program in different cities moving forward.  We also advocate for more funding for cancer research and support and treatment on a national level and we work for smoke-free initiatives by state and by city, which will help on many local community levels.

L+W- Do you have any international programs in place?

BM- Our global initiatives just recently launched.  We are working with organizations to get cancer drugs to where they are needed in developing countries.  Right now the infrastructure is not set up in developing countries so people are getting diagnosed very late.  As a result, a panic sets in with those diagnosed and their family members because they automatically think they are going to die.  We are working to break that stigma and also help people get diagnosed earlier so they can see that there is hope.  

L+W- What are some ways people can get detected early?

BM- Basically people need to know what to look for, and we can help with that.  If you think you may have cancer we can help you talk through the symptoms, set up a doctor’s appointment, work on getting a second and third opinion when necessary.  Prevention is also a big component for cancer because one third of all cancer could be stopped if we had access to the information that we need.  Examples are being diagnosed early by understanding early symptoms, leading a healthy lifestyle and avoiding smoking, to name a few.  

L+W- I noticed you have special programs in place for African Americans and American Indians.  Can you talk about those?

BM- We received a grant from the Center For Disease Control to target at-risk populations, which are populations that have a dramatic difference between cure-rates.  The populations we have targeted specifically are Spanish, Pacific Islanders, Asian-American, Alaskan Native and Native Americans.  We also offer information in Arabic and are targeting that population as well.  

L+W- What is the most moving moment you’ve had working with Livestrong?

BM- Some of the best moments have been at the Livestrong Challenge, which we do each year in four different cities: Austin, Seattle, Philadelphia and San Jose.  There was one particular little girl who was diagnosed with Leukemia and went to Bell Children’s Medical Center here in Austin.  We have a partnership with them, and for each Livestrong Challenge we bring pedicabs that drive kids from the medical center through town.  They lead the race.  The little girl I mentioned lead the race that year in her fairy princess outfit with her survivorship tag on her back.  It was a very touching moment for me.  She’s doing well now and still takes part in our events.  There have also been people who I’ve spoken to on the phone, and helped them through tough times and then am able to meet them face to face at the Livestrong Challenge.  Those are always very special moments.

L+W- Is there anything else people need to know about Livestrong?

BM- There are so many ways to get involved- that’s the huge benefit to the organization.  They can volunteer in so many ways.  When people ask what they can do, we tell them to sign up for updates or our e-newsletter on our website so we can keep them updated.

Sign up for our Newsletter

Become a fan on our FB page:

Follow us on Twitter: