Clear Search

A Survivor Turned Champion of Research

By BCRF | October 24, 2014

BCRF supporter shares her thoughts on breast cancer eight years after her diagnosis.

Today, we’re hosting our Hot Pink Luncheon & Symposium at the Boston Harbor Hotel. Next to our home base of New York, New England houses the largest number of our grantees at their state-of-the-art institutions. One of the key members of BCRF’s Boston family is Kelley Tuthill of ABC affiliate WCVB NewsCenter 5. A breast cancer survivor, Tuthill has used her prominence as a TV reporter to help promote the importance of cancer research and her broadcast skills to become our “Boston spokesperson,” emceeing our many events throughout the year.

Diagnosed eight years ago, she looks back at her experience with breast cancer and makes her case for supporting research and wearing pink this October.

Originally posted on WCVB Boston Channel 5


I didn't need to look at a calendar to know that October had arrived.

As I grabbed an egg to make breakfast I saw my first pink ribbon of the month imprinted on the shell. Before cracking it open, I went on the Internet to check out whether this ribbon actually meant anything. I was relieved to see indeed this company gives $50,000 a year to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

I hear a lot of grousing from my fellow survivors about "pink washing" or pink overload during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I actually love pink. It's pretty, feminine and perky. Pink makes me think of spring, hope and new life. So bring on the ribbons as long as it honestly represents a commitment to saving lives.

I know that's what my friend the late, great Evelyn Lauder had in mind when she started her Breast Cancer Research Foundation in 1993. She established the pink ribbon to raise awareness of this horrible disease. But she knew awareness alone was not going to cure cancer.

That's why her foundation will award more than $47 million this year to hundreds of scientists worldwide, including dozens in New England. In my reporting on their cutting edge work, I'm more convinced than ever they will find a cure.

According to, federal funding of breast cancer research is declining each year. In 2012 the government spent $602.7 million down from $631.2 million in 2010. So, private funding is more important than ever.

I am alive today because brilliant scientists discovered Herceptin, a targeted treatment for my type of breast cancer. My daughters were just 2 and a half years and 6 months old when I was diagnosed with no family history. Now, they are 10 and 8 and their mom is cancer free.

I am a grateful survivor who continuously tries to bring women information through news stories on WCVB, public talks and my book "You Can Do This: Surviving Breast Cancer Without Losing Your Sanity or Your Style." My October calendar is filled with events supporting BCRF, Dana-Farber, the Ellie Fund, Komen and Silent Spring.

Everywhere I go I meet survivors and hear their stories. Rather than feeling overloaded by pink, I feel enveloped and comforted by it. According to the American Cancer Society, 240,000 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year; 5,600 in Massachusetts.

Although those numbers are overwhelming, it means we have resources and support. I can tell you my friends with rarer types of cancer wish they had even a fraction of the attention breast cancer gets.

This disease affects so many of us; let's use our power to force companies to think before they pink.  That's a point made by Breast Cancer Action and its Think Before You Pink® campaign.

Ask why they are displaying a pink ribbon? How much do they donate? And to which charity? Ask how that charity spends the money. Demand more than just awareness. We are all very aware of this disease. What we want is a cure. And a cure takes funding.

Forty-thousand women will die of breast cancer this year, 800 of them from Massachusetts. Since I was diagnosed in 2006, I have painfully watched many friends die including Ingrid, Erin, Bridget, Tina, Colleen, Elizabeth, Kristin and Peter. With each death, my resolve strengthens to do whatever I can to help find a cure and save lives.

Someone recently asked me why I list breast cancer survivor/advocate on my Twitter profile. He thought it was strange for a journalist to describe herself as an "advocate." He makes a good point, but I simply cannot sit on the sidelines and watch any more patients die. I owe my advocacy in any appropriate form to their families.

This month, you won't catch me wearing a "Save the Ta-Tas" shirt or fighting to save "second base." I’ve already given up one breast and would gladly sacrifice another to save my life.

When you see me wearing pink, know it's an acknowledgment of a difficult fight and a celebration of survival.

This October, let the message be clear: We need to fund research and cure this insidious disease.