Community Impact

Finding connections, fighting cancer

By fundraising for Susan G. Komen and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Walgreens is helping cancer patients find the resources they need on their journeys.
Sarah Cason, Walgreens Stories
If you’re looking for a sign to listen to your doctor, let this be it. When she was 39 years old, Tomika Bryant was already tired of her gynecologist warning her to schedule her first mammogram. Her annual appointment at the gynecologist was approaching, and she figured it was time to listen and proactively schedule the breast exam.  Eventually, Tomika would learn that she had triple-negative breast cancer, or TNBC, a particularly invasive form of cancer with limited treatment options and poor prognoses that appears to be more common in young Black women.
Recalls Bryant, “Ironically, after my diagnosis, I realized my body was telling me that something wasn't right. I just was ignoring it. As a mother, raising kids, taking care of my husband, taking care of a house and doing all those other things, taking care of myself was no longer a priority in the equation.”
Bryant was blindsided and unsure of where to turn for help. This was in 2013, when maintenance drugs for her form of cancer were unavailable. She had no choice but to have surgery and begin chemo and radiation. Bryant began the aggressive treatment, and now, ten years later and against the odds, there is no evidence of disease in her body. She credits a renewed focus on her own health, prayer, and support from organizations like Susan G. Komen and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) for her recovery.
“Before I was diagnosed, all I knew about Komen and other support organizations like LLS were because of commercials.  Becoming a breast cancer patient changes things and finding reliable resources becomes a priority,” says Bryant. “I’ve done volunteer work and supported other people who were involved in these types of organizations, but I didn’t know too much about what they do. I started going to support groups and connecting with people online. I learned how to speak to my oncologist and plastic surgeon and better understand those processes. It’s hard to voice and tell people what you’re experiencing if they haven’t been a part of the journey themselves.  Organizations like Komen and LLS allow people to find others who understand. And that is so important for your mental health that is why I became a Komen Scholar in 2018 and continue to serve to help others.”
It’s this type of one-on-one support that can offer a lifeline to someone mired in the confusion and unfamiliarity of a cancer journey. It’s also one of the reasons Walgreens pledged to donate $25 million to Komen and LLS over five years in 2019. Specifically, money donated by customers online and at checkout this month will directly help to enable new research in metastatic breast cancer and pediatric blood cancers, as well as increase access, treatment and support services for those living with these diseases.
This is precisely what Bryant likes to hear. She says, “The biggest thing for me is funding research. I scream ‘clinical trials’ to anyone who will listen. The amount of money to even begin a research project is unfortunately a lot, and I’m not even talking about taking it to completion. And cancer is so individualized and they’re studying it as a group, so more has to be done.” Clinical trials are what lead to better understanding of treatment techniques and therapies that can improve a prognosis, or best-case scenario, move the needle closer to a cure.
Available at checkout at the more than 9,000 U.S. Walgreens pharmacy locations in February, every donation will be split evenly between the two organizations. Funds raised thus far for LLS have helped accelerate the delivery of cancer treatment advances to pediatric patients and have helped caregivers and survivors handle the financial, emotional and psychological effects of cancer and its treatment. Further, funds have been used to design and launch specialized training courses for Walgreens pharmacists to offer more targeted care and resources for patients battling cancer, and to fund LLS’s Blood Cancer Conferences, which are free education events about treatment options, emerging therapies and managing survivorship.
According to Bryant, the small act of donating can have a huge impact.
“These organizations do amazing things. Komen will help provide patient care services including education, navigation and financial assistance. They are a major resource for pretty much anything you can think of. And someone’s donation can help their friend, their neighbor, their sister, or someone that they didn't even think it was possible to reach. But it will reach them.”

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