Advocating for Women with Breast Cancer
Research Area: Symptom Science
Immersed in corporate culture after graduating from Harvard Business School years before, Amy Langer’s life took an unexpected turn after her diagnosis with breast cancer at age 29. It was the first of two life-altering events that dramatically shifted her focus over the next three decades away from finance towards cause-marketing and patient advocacy.
Facing “facts, not fear” became Ms. Langer’s mantra as she navigated her own medical journey against breast cancer and guided others facing this “loaded” disease, as she called it, that threatened their body image and sense of womanhood.
Her diagnosis led to volunteer work for the pioneering National Alliance of Breast Cancer Or-ganizations (NABCO), before leaving her career at Lehman Brothers, to take over NABCO’s helm between 1990 and 2004. She emerged as a dynamic national spokesperson for breast cancer research, from education and outreach to the exploration of less-disfiguring treatment options that were beginning to become available. The group’s efforts “started a movement that vastly escalated breast cancer research funding and gave patients and survivors a permanent voice in medical-decision making,” she has said.
Ms. Langer is the only non-scientist ever to be given the William L. McGuire Award and Lec-tureship, named for one of the co-founders of the San Antonio Breast Cancer Conference. Re-cipients are chosen because their work has had a positive impact on the understanding of the development of breast cancer and the outcome of treatment.
In 1996, Ms. Langer faced a second hurdle that threatened to derail her advocacy work. She was struck by a car, losing both legs and confining her to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. But buoyed by her belief that “things happen to us for a reason,” she pushed on.
Read more about Ms. Langer in this story from Harvard Business School.