INTERIVEW WITH MILA & SCOTT BECKER
Mila Becker and her Team Becker have been long time supporters of the DC MORE THAN PINK Walk and have consistently raised over $10,000 each year.
Mila is the Chief Policy Officer of The Endocrine Society, and Scott Becker is the CEO of APHL (American Public Health Labs), so we also asked them for their thoughts regarding COVID-19 in addition to discussing their work with Komen.
Q: Please tell us about your background as a breast cancer survivor (Mila)
A: In December 2008 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My daughters were only 6 and 7 years old, so I chose to treat this very aggressively. I had surgery and chemotherapy. I was very motivated to not only get through all of the treatment, but do so without scaring my little girls, so I really tried to keep a normalcy to the family’s routine, to try and look normal, and to try and act normal. My oncologist gave me a list of things to do to manage treatment and one of the items was to exercise as much as possible, so every day I ran. I was kind of like Forrest Gump because I ran and ran, but I thought my kids would think I was ok because sick people don’t run every day. Meanwhile, I started feeling stronger because I really was beating back this disease. I realized very early on that I was very lucky because I had good insurance and a good support system and other women were not so fortunate. Fundraising for Susan G. Komen gave me an opportunity to try and help other women. Volunteering for Susan G. Komen also became an important lesson for my daughters. I wanted to show them that this is how we roll – we don’t just take, but we give back.
Q: Scott, please tell us about your role as a co-survivor.
It’s been 10+ years so the role and the journey has shifted. At the beginning, I felt like an active participant. I thought that we would go through the treatment and my job would be to be a cheerleader and supporter. My job was and continues to be very positive. For both of us because we are involved in health and science, we try to educate ourselves as much as possible to understand all aspects of the disease and the experience of living cancer-free and being hopeful.
Q: How long have you and your family been involved with fundraising for Komen and the DC Race/Walk. (Mila)
A: I have participated in the Komen Race/Walk since the early nineties after college when I wanted to get involved in a community event. Then in 1996 my mom died of breast cancer and it became personal, so I fundraised a little and a little more each year. After my diagnosis, I started our team and got others to join with me in running, walking, and raising money.
Q: What advice do you have for those who are dealing with uncertainty during the pandemic? (Scott/Mila)
A: Scott: The same advice that I tried to give when Mila began this journey, which is “This too will end” and try to focus that every day is one closer to the end of the pandemic.
It’s true we don’t know how long this will continue, but a lot of it will depend on how we, as individuals and as a society, handle this. For example, if we wear a mask, stay 6 feet or more a part, and wash our hands, we have a good chance of flattening the curve again and getting out of this mess.
A: Mila: Since the pandemic started, I have had some of the nightmares I had when I was in treatment. I think I am feeling the same emotions I had then of fear and helplessness. My advice is we must understand we can’t control everything, so just focus on the things we can and take time to take care of yourself. Feel strong, stay positive, and when you start to feel sorry for yourself, look around and find someone who is in worse shape and try and help them. That will help you a lot.
Q: What do you think the hardest thing moving forward from COVID-19 will be?
A: Scott: Looking back we will have to come to grips with how many lives were lost and how our lives were interrupted because failures early on to listen to scientists and public health experts.
A: Mila: I think it will be missing the human touch. I think we will not be able to go back to hugging our friends like we did and took for granted and we will miss that human contact.
Q: What can those at a higher risk of infection do to stay safe?
A: Scott: Avoid large gatherings. Ensure you and those around you wear masks, social distance, and wash hands. It is also important that they listen to their doctors and public health officials. It is important to remember that nothing has really changed in this pandemic, as we don’t yet have a vaccine. What we do know and are increasingly learning is how this virus transmits person to person. This will require a lot of self-discipline and, as we have all experienced, finding new ways to socially interact while being physically distant.
Q: Any final thoughts or comments to add?
A: Scott: Think back to journey of breast cancer survivorship, a lot of those lessons come into play. Things like resiliency, adaptation, respect for science, and appreciation for good health.
A: Mila: Unfortunately, cancer doesn’t stop because of the pandemic, so it is really, important that we continue to fundraise and help Komen with its mission to fight breast cancer and make more women survivors. I hope everyone will try to do a little extra fundraising this year to fight breast cancer!