One in Eight Women Will Be Diagnosed with Breast Cancer

By Giving List Women   |   May 20, 2024
In loving memory of Kristen (L) on the day she modeled at BCA’s Annual Luncheon and Fashion Show. She is pictured with her dear friend, Mary, (R) who was the one who reached out to BCA for help, getting Kristen her life-changing treatment.

She only had two weeks to live. This is a patient’s story that is all too familiar to Yonni Wattenmaker, the executive director of Breast Cancer Alliance (BCA). 

“She’s in Colorado and in liver failure due to metastatic breast cancer, and the doctors are only giving her two weeks,” Wattenmaker remembers after hearing a BCA supporter share. “They needed a Hail Mary pass and asked if there was anything we could do. Through our network, I was able to find an exceptional oncologist in Colorado who got her assessed quickly for any potential options.”

That connection made all the difference. A year later, this terminal breast cancer patient walked in a fashion show that BCA had organized as a part of their annual fundraiser. According to Wattenmaker, “While cancer did take her life, she lived another five years, and she credits us with that 100%. She died with no regrets, knowing she was loved, and feeling fulfilled. Extending her life was an incredible gift to her, her family and friends, and they were most grateful.”

Improving Survival Rates and Quality of Life

The nonprofit work of BCA is unique and consists of a comprehensive network of healthcare providers, survivors, and activists doing the life-changing work of expanding breast cancer awareness, research, treatment, and community building.  BCA changes the course of this disease through its three-pronged, highly-focused mission: Provide research grants focused on funding pre-clinical research that drives breakthrough treatments; award fellowships for breast oncology surgeons who improve outcomes; support the underserved in the region surrounding its headquarters with screening services, as early diagnoses make a significant and positive impact on survival rates and outcomes.

Courtney Olsen, president of BCA’s Board of Directors, has witnessed the impact in these areas. “As a 13-year breast cancer survivor, I wanted to do something to make a difference,” she says. “That’s what BCA does: providing free mammograms and other breast cancer screening service to underserved patients, and facilitating access to fellowship-trained breast surgeons through our grants. Our fellowship program is a never-ending gift,” Olsen notes. “Because we support the training of these breast surgery fellows, some of them venture to the middle of Wisconsin, or down by the border in Texas where a breast cancer surgeon has never existed; they’re making a real impact on patients’ lives. That is because of us.” Wattenmaker added, “You can have a new doctor in Fresno, California, treating migrant workers, where before they never even had someone to perform a mammogram,” Wattenmaker says. “And now they have a full breast center, because we were able to provide the funding for somebody to get trained and go back into that community.” 

On the Cusp of a Vaccine

Wattenmaker adds, “We were one of the early funders of the Cancer Vaccine Institute [at the University of Washington Medicine] in Seattle, and they are developing cancer vaccines for breast cancer patients, now being cured by their own targeted therapies. It’s tremendous.”

Due to this extraordinary work, countless women, men, and nonbinary individuals with breast cancer diagnoses have newfound hope and resources that have contributed to higher survival rates. It’s truly life-saving.


Breast Cancer Alliance

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(914) 482-3262
Executive Director: Yonni Wattenmaker


The mission of Breast Cancer Alliance is to improve survival rates and quality of life for those impacted by breast cancer through better prevention, early detection, treatment and cure. To promote these goals, we invest in innovative research, breast surgery fellowships, education, dignified regional support and screening for the underserved.

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