Seven months after Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization’s 24/7 peer-to-peer multilingual toll-free telephone hotline (800-221-2141) was suddenly silenced due to a decision by the Chicago-based organization's Board of Directors to close the 34-year-old advocacy group, the former lifeline to thousands of breast cancer survivors nationally will be reactivated later this month by After Breast Cancer Diagnosis (ABCD), the Milwaukee nonprofit that bought what was left of the bankrupt Y-ME in November.
I recently met with ABCD Executive Director Ginny Finn while she was in the Philadelphia area. Her next stop after our interview was with Living Beyond Breast Cancer, the other nonprofit that had bid (unsuccessfully) for Y-ME’s remaining property, which was headquartered just a few minutes away. She said she planned to discuss certain collaborations that were not over-lapping between their respective organizations.
Regarding ABCD’s expansion, she noted again that Y-ME’s former number--which will be finally reactivated after months of working with the telephone provider—would not be publicized but callers would be rerouted to ABCD’s 800-977-4121 helpline.
ABCD’s mission, Finn said, is not to provide services as a direct provider but rather to transform the standard of breast cancer support so that it always includes a one-to-one mentor: “With the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer’s mandate that survivorship standards be included for accreditation by 2013, we knew that survivorship care was finally being taken seriously, and ABCD is based in Wisconsin, one of the states that has included survivorship as part of its cancer control program.”
She said that ABCD had revised its strategic plan in 2010 following the death of its founder, local TV journalist Melodie Wilson, and had planned on expanding its helpline beyond the state. The availability of Y-ME’s assets served to accelerate that expansion by about 18 months, but what proved to be especially invaluable was the “wisdom of survivorship” shared by the nearly 60 Y-ME staff and volunteers who are now joining ABCD’s 275 volunteers as mentors, she added.
“ABCD’s volunteer mentoring had always existed within the context of professional clinical support and we had always been a gathering place for people of all backgrounds,” she said, explaining that Milwaukee has traditionally been segregated by different ethnic and racial neighborhoods and Wilson wanted to transcend all of those boundaries and welcome everyone to participate in the organization’s one-to-one mentoring.