October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! In honor of raising awareness, we wanted to share insights from a leader in the cancer community and co-founder of non-profit My Style Matters, Tiah Tomlin. From discussing the future of her organization to addressing issues within the healthcare industry, Tiah provides valuable insight as a cancer survivor and advocate for the community.
Founding My Style Matters
After her own battle with one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer, Triple-negative, Tiah recognized the gaps in resources and support services in the cancer community. She co-founded non-profit My Style Matters in hopes of being part of the solution.
My Style Matters, founded by both Tiah Tomlin and Shawn Lovings, has an overarching goal of strengthening communities by contributing to their overall health and well-being. It has two signature programs, Kick Can't-cer and The Art of Etiquette.
The Kick Can't-cer Program, led by Tiah, assists cancer patients by providing non-toxic care packages, lifestyle education, free beauty services, support groups, financial resources, and more.
"Through this program, cancer warriors will receive H.U.G.S. (Hand-holding services Under Great Stress) so they know they are not alone in their journey."
In addition to the long list of support services offered, the organization also offers a sisterhood support group called "My Breast Years Ahead." This group is a community for women of all ages and ethnic backgrounds living in the Greater Atlanta area who are impacted by any type of cancer. It provides a space for women battling cancer to share their journeys, support and learn from each other, or even just to offer hope to one another. The group has over 450 members and was recently highlighted by Facebook after one of its posts reached 10 million views.
Tiah (middle) with members of the My Breast Years Ahead group
Along with offering support and services, My Style Matters also works to advocate for those in the cancer community. As her organization continues to grow, Tiah has kept the patient voice as the focus of her endeavors. She explained that maintaining partnerships with non-profit organizations who have similar missions has been part of the push for patient advocacy and support.
"With the need being so extensive, we have been focusing on building partnerships with other non-profit organizations to ensure that the patient is fully supported in all aspects of their life."
My Style Matters is partnered with organizations such as Angel in Disguise, which assists cancer patients with tasks such as driving to doctor appointments and grocery shopping. Other partners of My Style Matters include I Will Survive, Tigerlily Foundation, and Breast Advocate.
Another advocacy effort Tiah has been working on is requesting that the NCCN Breast Cancer Guidelines Panel consider changing guidelines to address issues impacting patient access to care.
Tiah also noted that she is working on addressing health care disparities and will be planning some great things for 2020 to help address this. This is one of the gaps in the healthcare industry that she believes needs some work.
The Future For Cancer Patients
As a cancer survivor and advocate for the community, Tiah noted a few issues within the healthcare industry that aren't making the cancer journey any easier on those diagnosed.
"Disparities are something that truly need to be addressed in the healthcare industry. Better access to care is needed within the underserved and underrepresented communities. There is also a need for more education, supportive services, and healthier options. Too many people are suffering as a result of the lack thereof."
Along with the issues of disparities in access to care and supportive services, Tiah experienced a lack of patient survivorship care plans and other programs to help prevent or lower the risk of cancer recurrence. She stressed that "while discussions around environmental factors, exercise, healthy eating, and integrative care are happening at conferences like the ASCO and AACR; we need to do a better job at implementation. This should be part of the ongoing discussion with cancer patients."
Tiah and others within the cancer community have also experienced a disconnect between primary care physicians and the rest of the cancer care team (i.e surgeon, oncologist, radiologist) during diagnosis and treatment. She suggested more training for primary care physicians on cancer, as it can help in the support and care of cancer patients throughout their journey and beyond.
What Researchers Can Do To Help
When asked what the research industry can do to contribute to the quality of care for cancer patients, Tiah emphasized the importance of collaboration with non-profit organizations.
"Create more partnership opportunities with grassroots non-profit organizations that are connected with the community. By working together, we can make efforts to improve education and supportive services for those diagnosed with cancer."
One of the crucial parts of healthcare research is understanding the patient journey; and from there determining what patients would like to see more of as a community. For those diagnosed with cancer, Tiah mentioned that "a cure for certain is what we want and need, but there are other things that we would like to see as well. From that data, perhaps we can find researchers that have an interest in addressing those patient needs."
With our unique company model, Op4G has been able to connect with and gain insight from various non-profit organizations across the United States. Our partnership with My Style Matters has allowed us to hear first-hand from those in the cancer community. We hope that through this insight, we can be part of the effort to improve quality of care for those battling cancer.
In addition to assisting in healthcare and other research, our model allows us to expand funding for non-profits across the United States. Through our non-profit partnership program, My Style Matters has been able to earn additional funding to help support its mission. For Tiah, this funding allows her to continue the fight for changes she wants to see within the cancer community and beyond. Read what she has to say about us below.
"Our experience with Op4G has been nothing short of amazing. The staff is diligent about checking in with us and providing updates on earnings. They continuously show their support by sharing our information with their audience. We highly recommend that other organizations get plugged into what they're doing to help bring about change."
If you'd like to learn more about My Style Matters, you can visit their website at www.MyStyleMatters.org.