about so brave

About SO BRave

Young Women Get

Breast Cancer Too

The So Brave story starts with
one young woman’s diagnosis

 

Young Women Get Breast Cancer Too

The So Brave story starts with one young woman’s diagnosis

Our mission is to EMPOWER young women diagnosed with breast cancer; raise AWARENESS in young women to be #breastaware;
EDUCATE young women, and fundraise for breast cancer RESEARCH.

When was the last time you checked your boobs?

Do you know how?

Words from Our Founder and Managing Director, Rachelle Panitz

Words from Our Founder and Managing Director, Rachelle Panitz

I was just 32 when my life became a tumbled mass of emotion the moment I heard I’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. With two small children and partner in tow, I had to navigate a medical system that wasn’t equipped with the resources or support needed to help me through it.

And that was only one small challenge of many. Coping with the ‘what-ifs’. Trying to find other young diagnosed women to talk to. Searching the depths of my inner being to work out how on earth I was ever going to accept my new physicality. It all ached so deeply.

I am often asked why So Brave has such a focus on young women, because, as we know, all women are at risk of breast cancer. My personal journey is precisely why—and of course every woman needs to be vigilant, do her monthly breast checks, and follow up with medical professionals.

In fact, the incidence of breast cancer is increasing. Recently, Cancer Australia updated the national breast cancer incidence statistics.

The rate has increased from 1 in 8 women to 1 in 7 women in their lifetime.

For women aged 40 and older, regular mammograms are freely available across Australia through BreastScreen. Young women in high risk families are eligible for MRI screening, although this is often cost-prohibitive.

I learned through experience that there are currently no free breast cancer screening programs for women in their 20s and 30s (unless you’re high risk and then there are often costs involved). 

Which is why So Brave exists. We know we need to guide our young women to be educated, empowered, and #breastaware.

Which is why So Brave exists. We know we need to guide our young women to be educated, empowered, and #breastaware.

Research shows us close to 1000 young Australian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020.

That’s 5% of all women diagnosed with breast cancer each year. 

If we can teach young women to be more body aware and be their own best health advocate, we have a fighting chance for them to insist on medical intervention, a diagnosis, and early treatment. Young women are also the ones who are more likely to check their breasts regularly, and more likely to be the first to notice a breast change which leads to a diagnosis.

From my lived experience, and in hearing first-hand the stories of so many So Brave community members, a breast cancer diagnosis turns your world upside-down. Young women are embarking upon, or in the midst of, transformative stages of life: still at university, beginning their professional careers, still living at home or renting, or just taking on their first mortgage. Many are single or just at the beginning of making a life with a partner. Some have new babies or small children or are finding themselves at the point where they’re seriously considering whether they want to have a family or not.

Put yourself in their shoes for a moment—that moment, when you’re first told you’ve been diagnosed. Outside of the shock and fear of the diagnosis itself and what that means for your own life, there’s a ripple effect of considerations that come with it.

Being told you may not be able to have a family. Finding out your first home savings will need to be spent on treatment. Losing your financial security. Even for women with a family history (and we highly recommend you get to know yours), breast cancer always, always, comes as a shock. 

It’s for that moment, and the millions of moments afterwards, that makes So Brave’s mission is so important.

It’s for that moment, and the millions of moments afterwards, that makes

So Brave’s mission is so important.

We exist to be the force that empowers young women with the education, resources and strength to stand for themselves when faced with navigating the medical system, and to be taken seriously among their elders. We are building a new generation of self-assured women who are their own best health advocates.

We exist so young women can find each other, connect to their peers, feel understood and get the support they need, then bring their families and communities together to raise awareness. We amplify the voices of young women walking this unknown path, and also speak on behalf of those who prefer anonymity. This allows young women to find inspiration and tap into their own empowerment and healing through sharing their stories.

We undertake research programs to understand the real-life impacts of breast cancer on young Australian women so we’re always providing the best support and advice possible. In doing so, we aim to break stigmas and to change how young women are treated in the health care system.

Because a #breastaware community builds a future where early detection is the norm and young women have the education, research and community to navigate their paths supported.

And better research leads to more advanced treatment, which positively affects future outcomes.

Find out more about our

#breastaware campaign

Find out more about our #breastaware campaign

Research is vital, not just in the pursuit of better treatments, but in the screening for and prevention of breast cancer in the first place. It’s already proven that the earlier breast cancer is detected, the more effective its treatment can be, so we strive to fund improved screening and diagnostics to ensure every young woman can have easy access to an earlier diagnosis.

We’ve seen the power of what So Brave can do. It started small—with just one woman seeing the gaps and seeking change through connecting and empowering other young women to demand change and share their stories. It’s grown to become Australia’s Young Women’s Breast Cancer Charity because of the need for it. So Brave has changed many lives and we’ve made great progress for our young women’s futures already.

With your help, we can continue to pioneer much needed change for generations to come.

So Brave Purpose

Raise Community Awareness

Young women get breast cancer too 

We aim to reduce the number of young women under 40 being diagnosed with breast cancer through education, breast awareness, self-advocacy, research, and greater community understanding.

This includes rural and regional communities in Australia to facilitate community education and awareness programs, and to access and share relevant information. In association and collaboration with other Australian or international organisations whose interests and objectives align with So Brave, we work to promote activities that benefit young women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, their families and their communities.

In advocating breast awareness for young women, we initiate the discussion in our communities so being #breastaware becomes the norm.

Raise Funds for Research

So we can change future outcomes

So Brave is a charity pioneering empowered futures for young Australian women through funding best practice scientific and medical research.

Our courageous So Brave Ambassadors enable us to amplify awareness and thereby inspire donations for further investment into this research. Additionally, our bodypainting calendar of inspirational young breast cancer survivors bravely sharing their scars is one of a kind—through these unique initiatives we connect the So Brave vision and purpose to our fundraising mission.

We seek to obtain financial support from the private and public sectors in Australia for the activities of the company so as to support research into the cause, cure and treatment of breast cancer. We also undertake research programs to understand the real-life impacts of breast cancer on young Australian women so we’re always providing the best support and advice possible.

Empower, Connect & Support

So young women with breast cancer find their voice and have it be heard

Through artistic expression we are So Brave, stepping into our new beauty with strength, pride and rekindled love for our bodies. In doing so, we are empowered to support others experiencing the same.

So Brave advocates for young women who may not have the confidence to speak their truth when it comes to caring for, and understanding, their bodies and its unique needs.

When things seem impossibly hard, So Brave offers the comfort of wisdom and experience that eases feelings of fear and isolation. Because connection between young women experiencing breast cancer is as important as the treatment itself.

“It all started in a moment”

When I first heard my own diagnosis, it upturned my world.

I was 32, my son was just 6 weeks old, and I had a 3-year-old daughter. I felt alone and confused because I had no family or genetic history of breast cancer. And then I had to face the frustration of a lack of medical support and information about breast cancer and diagnosis for young women. It was a single, terrifying moment and I didn’t know where to turn.

My pivotal moment came through a chance meeting with body paint artist, Wendy Fantasia. All of a sudden, she had me thinking about how young breast cancer survivors, like myself, ‘see’ themselves after diagnosis. My relationship with my body had perished as I struggled to see the femininity in my new shape. I emailed Wendy, suggesting a venture where young breast cancer survivors could access body painting and photography as a way for them to restore their relationships with their bodies in the wake of their traumatic experience, while also raising awareness of the prevalence of breast cancer in young women. It was just an idea, but Wendy jumped at the chance and suddenly I found myself in a world of creation, project-management, logistics, charity, governance, and everything that now comes with achieving So Brave’s mission.

The charity was born following the delivery of our first So Brave Calendar in 2016. We’ve since travelled the country educating and raising awareness in young women through our So Brave Model Ambassadors, and funding $115,000 of breast cancer research and support initiatives.

We’ve been touched by life-changing transformations and encouraged by seeing the joy, hope, laughter, and adoption of personal empowerment each time we’ve connected with these brave young women.

And even more so by the loss of three of our precious So Brave Ambassadors.

This is the reality of breast cancer right now.

For young women in Australia. For their communities, their families, and their children.

But So Brave is pioneering a different future.

So Brave continues because of, and to honour, these women.

Rachelle Panitz

Founder and Managing Director
So Brave Ltd
Australia’s Young Women’s
Breast Cancer Charity

So Brave Values

Courage

Advocacy & Education

Respect & Integrity

Collaboration & Community

Kindness & Inclusion

Courage

So Brave is more than just a name. It’s our approach to everything we do. Courage is not a lack of fear, but the perseverance in spite of it. Courage is seeking help when you need it, supporting others, trusting your community, and standing strong in the face of the unknown. We are not afraid to be vulnerable and ask for help and we have courage to trust the process.

So Brave supports young women through breast cancer diagnoses and treatments and provides a platform for their stories. We amplify their voices and also speak on behalf of those who prefer anonymity. We also know that many girls and young women haven’t been taught to speak up for themselves. We teach them how to prioritise their self-care, know their bodies, seek medical advice and treatment, and advocate for their own unique needs, whatever they may be. In all our practices, we embrace an innovative and creative approach to fundraising and education that makes So Brave unique.

Advocacy & Education

Respect & Integrity

Every breast cancer diagnosis story is unique and personal. We support those young women who want to share their experiences but understand that it’s not for everyone. We respect our Ambassadors’ privacy, body, modesty, and story. We also prioritise the integrity of each woman’s story and do not embellish or dilute information. Honesty is key in our communications – we do what we say we’ll do and tell the truth to everyone we deal with. Through our integrity we build trust, which we know is the basis to So Brave making a contribution to breast health outcomes and empowerment for younger generations.

We are a direct link between young women and the medical community, ensuring that the specific needs of those under the age of 40 are considered when it comes to check-ups, treatments, and care. Many have busy careers, young families, and thriving social lives which cannot be ignored in the event of a diagnosis. In fact, it’s important to nourish these connections and establish new ones during this time. So Brave Connect is an online community we created to build connections between the newly-diagnosed, those undergoing treatment, and those in recovery. It offers a space to share stories, make friends, and reduce isolation. We know the whole is made better by the sum of its parts and we are united in our desire to see change.

We offer collaboration and community through two initiatives:

  • So Brave CONNECT and
  • Our So Brave Model Ambassador program.

Collaboration & Community

Kindness & Inclusion

Our approach is based in compassion and our messaging is free from judgement, criticism, and condescension. Gaining the trust of young women and their families and communities can only be achieved through non-judgemental guidance and effective outreach campaigns, which So Brave has achieved and continues to maintain. We stem from a place of ‘been there’; feeling excluded is an extra layer of hurt and indignity that no young woman needs when she is already enduring breast cancer. We are therefore inclusive in our messaging and understand that women of all demographics are at risk of breast cancer. We continue to tell the stories of all young women in the So Brave community, including LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and those with disabilities.

So Brave Values

Courage

So Brave is more than just a name. It’s our approach to everything we do. Courage is not a lack of fear, but the perseverance in spite of it. Courage is seeking help when you need it, supporting others, trusting your community, and standing strong in the face of the unknown. We are not afraid to be vulnerable and ask for help and we have courage to trust the process.

Advocacy & Education

So Brave supports young women through breast cancer diagnoses and treatments and provides a platform for their stories. We amplify their voices and also speak on behalf of those who prefer anonymity. We also know that many girls and young women haven’t been taught to speak up for themselves. We teach them how to prioritise their self-care, know their bodies, seek medical advice and treatment, and advocate for their own unique needs, whatever they may be. In all our practices, we embrace an innovative and creative approach to fundraising and education that makes So Brave unique.

Respect & Integrity

Every breast cancer diagnosis story is unique and personal. We support those young women who want to share their experiences but understand that it’s not for everyone. We respect our Ambassadors’ privacy, body, modesty, and story. We also prioritise the integrity of each woman’s story and do not embellish or dilute information. Honesty is key in our communications – we do what we say we’ll do and tell the truth to everyone we deal with. Through our integrity we build trust, which we know is the basis to So Brave making a contribution to breast health outcomes and empowerment for younger generations.

Collaboration & Community

We are a direct link between young women and the medical community, ensuring that the specific needs of those under the age of 40 are considered when it comes to check-ups, treatments, and care. Many have busy careers, young families, and thriving social lives which cannot be ignored in the event of a diagnosis. In fact, it’s important to nourish these connections and establish new ones during this time. So Brave Connect is an online community we created to build connections between the newly-diagnosed, those undergoing treatment, and those in recovery. It offers a space to share stories, make friends, and reduce isolation. We know the whole is made better by the sum of its parts and we are united in our desire to see change.

We offer collaboration and community through two initiatives:

  • So Brave CONNECT and
  • Our So Brave Model Ambassador program.

Kindness & Inclusion

Our approach is based in compassion and our messaging is free from judgement, criticism, and condescension. Gaining the trust of young women and their families and communities can only be achieved through non-judgemental guidance and effective outreach campaigns, which So Brave has achieved and continues to maintain. We stem from a place of ‘been there’; feeling excluded is an extra layer of hurt and indignity that no young woman needs when she is already enduring breast cancer. We are therefore inclusive in our messaging and understand that women of all demographics are at risk of breast cancer. We continue to tell the stories of all young women in the So Brave community, including LGBTQ+, BIPOC, and those with disabilities.

Team So Brave

Meet the So Brave board

rachelle-panitz

Rachelle Panitz
Founder and Managing Director

samantha-klintworth

Samantha Klintworth
Chair

Heidi Rodgers FGIA
Company Secretary

kate-o'donahue

Dr Sandra Krishnan Lukin
Non-Executive Director

penny-ellenger

Penny Ellenger
Non-Executive Director

kate-o'donahue

Kate O’Donohue
Non-Executive Director

laura-lukin

Anna Blackett
Non-Executive Director

penny-ellenger

 Katrina Hart
Non-Executive Director

Meet our Creative Team

wendy-fantasia

Wendy Fantasia – Body Paint Artist

Wendy Fantasia is an exceptional and experienced professional body paint artist. Ranked 5th in the world for face painting in 2017, Wendy’s artistry and ability to completely transform each So Brave Model Ambassador into a work of art is nothing short of extraordinary. We are blessed to have Wendy on our creative team.

Meet our So Brave Ambassadors

We are in awe of these women, all of whom are real women, who volunteer, and who were diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 40.

All of whom had the incredible courage to share their stories after their breast cancer diagnosis, and who participated to raise funds by being the faces of So Brave.