To Life!s mission is to educate our community about breast cancer detection, treatments and related health matters, and provide support services to breast cancer patients, caregivers, family and friends.
To Life! serves women and their families in the greater Capital Region, including Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Columbia, Greene, Montgomery, Fulton, Warren and Washington counties.
To Life! was founded in October 1998 as a not-for-profit organization after its founder, Mara Ginsberg, was diagnosed with breast cancer. As she progressed through consultations about treatment and therapy alternatives, she realized that services to breast cancer patients were limited, fractured and difficult to locate. As she met other women in the same boat, she learned that many, as she, were occasionally overwhelmed by the gravity of their diagnoses, unsure of what questions to ask the doctors, sometimes embarrassed to ask certain questions, put-off by the busy-ness and sterility of medical offices, uncomfortable shopping for prostheses and wigs in medical supply houses, and aching for a competent and sympathetic source of information, guidance and non-medical services.
Mara created To Life! to serve as a welcoming setting in which women can obtain information necessary to make informed medical decisions, learn how to explain things to their families and thereby enlist their support and assistance, and go for support and ancillary services such as wig and prostheses fittings and makeup. And, because early detection is half the battle against breast cancer, To Life! aggressively reaches out to the community with breast self-examination training.
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“Unlike the vast majority of breast cancer patients whom the disease takes by surprise, I had plenty of warning: both my mother and her sister died of it at age 44. When that other shoe dropped with my own diagnosis at age 37, I launched into action. I researched diligently, interviewed doctors, visited clinics, talked to friends and strangers. Even so, I found that information about the disease, treatment options, post-treatment problems and ancillary services such as prostheses and wigs was either inadequate or very difficult to find. I wondered, how do other women do this? Emotionally overwhelmed, weakened by the treatments, isolated by a disease that can be uncomfortable to talk about, how do those women cope? The answer distressed me. In addition to fighting the disease itself, breast cancer patients must wage another battle of gathering information from diverse sources, trying to sort it out and make sense of it and hoping to find some kindred spirits to share the burden along the way.
While in treatment and back at work after my surgeries, I began to think about how to fill the enormous gaps in services to women with breast cancer. I had a good sense of what had to be done. I just needed to figure out whether I could do it, financially, physically, emotionally and without shortchanging the most important people in my life—my husband and two young children. I left my dream job with the New York State Attorney General and devoted myself to developing a package of services I knew thousands of women in my community need and deserve. In October 1998 I launched To Life! It is deeply gratifying to me that To Life! has struck such a responsive chord in our community. We are beginning to see tangible changes in the quality of health care in the region. By educating patients and encouraging them to advocate for themselves, To Life! equips cancer patients to act as partners with their healthcare providers. Area physicians attest that To Life! has made a definite and positive impact on patient care. Patients are routinely referred to To Life! by doctors and nurses and, most tellingly, breast cancer survivors who have benefited from its services.”
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