Whether it’s heartfelt anecdotes or inspiring triumphs, the Scarves Dot Net gals love to share stories — especially when they’re incredibly touching. That’s why we’re starting a new series called SDN Spotlight. From influential bloggers to community leaders, we’ve scoured the blogosphere for the most inspiring men and women. So far, we’ve had the opportunity to hear from seven incredible individuals about how cancer has affected their lives.
Today we’re excited to bring you our interview with Dr. Kathleen Ruddy. Dr. Ruddy is a breast surgeon, trained at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In 2008, she completed the first International Masters for Health Leadership at McGill University and then created the first and only breast cancer foundation (the Breast Health & Healing Foundation) whose mission is to discover the specific causes of breast cancer and use that knowledge to prevent the disease — what she calls the Pure Cure. She is particularly interested in the breast cancer virus and the world’s first preventive breast cancer vaccine, which was developed at the Cleveland Clinic in 2010.
Dr. Ruddy’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1974 and is still alive and cancer-free today. She shares about her experiences with breast cancer as a surgeon and as the daughter of a survivor on her blog.
SDN: Your mother was diagnosed with breast cancer years ago. Could you tell us a little bit more about her, her battle, and her recovery?
Dr. Ruddy: My mother found a lump in her breast and had a biopsy that was read as a frozen section. She was told everything was fine. But then a few days later, the doctor called to say that on permanent sections the lump was really cancer. She had a mastectomy, radiation therapy, and then she had her ovaries removed. This all happened before breast cancer was something people were aware of. It was pretty scary for her and for the family, but she recovered and has been cancer-free ever since.
SDN: Coming from a medical perspective, what is the most crucial piece of information that the public should know about cancer?
Dr. Ruddy: I think there are a few things people need to know that they probably don’t. There is converging and compelling evidence accumulating that a virus (human mammary tumor virus) is responsible for 40-75% of breast cancer. Very little research money is spent supporting this research, and that’s a shame.
I think most people don’t know about the world’s first preventive breast cancer vaccine. It is 100% effective in preventing breast cancer in three animal models and is ready for safety testing in women. Money is needed to support this research, too. I hope we can move it along quickly.
SDN: You are the founder and president of the Breast Health & Healing Foundation. Can you explain why you started the foundation and share any accomplishments so far?
Dr. Ruddy: When I discovered that the major breast cancer foundations were not pursuing the causes of breast cancer or primary prevention of the disease, I felt I had to create one that would fill this great, unmet need.
In 2010, I created an iPhone app, Breast Health GPS, which was the #1 breast cancer app in the iTunes store for 18 months after its release. I also created a documentary film about the virus, It’s Time To Answer The Question, which was named Best Film of the Year 2010 by Rethink Breast Cancer. I’ve hosted two Breast Cancer Summits on Capitol Hill about the virus and the vaccine and will be hosting a third this month in New York City.
I launched an app for the iPad, Breast Cancer 411, that brings all the latest breast cancer news to users, and I launched an app for all smart phones, Lobby Me Pink, that allows users to send emails directly to their Congressmen on Capitol Hill. All of my apps are free, and they are all dedicated to empowering women, giving them good information, and teaching them about how they can reduce their risk for breast cancer.
In 2011, I was invited by the University of Michigan Global Health Network to address their conference in Cairo about breast cancer in Africa and the Middle East. I spoke about the virus and the vaccine, and I think I generated good interest in the prevention of breast cancer in countries that cannot afford a race for the cure.
SDN: The Breast Health & Healing Foundation focuses on breast cancer prevention rather than on “a race towards a cure.” Why do you think it is imperative to shift the focus towards prevention?
Dr. Ruddy: Scientists are certain that at least 30% of breast cancer cases can be prevented using known and proven risk reduction strategies, yet less than 2% of all research money is spent doing so. Even though other breast cancer foundations talk and market prevention, if you look at what they fund, it’s easy to see that they are marketing prevention rather than actually trying to do so. It’s a shame. They’ve lost credibility on so many counts, and this is just another way they try to convince the public that they’re doing something productive to prevent breast cancer, when they are really working more for diagnosis and treatment than anything else.
SDN: You are determined to find a “pure cure” for cancer. Where do you find the strength to pursue this goal day in and day out?
Dr. Ruddy: I was born with a good constitution. I was raised in a very disciplined way. I was taught to work hard and well. Passion runs through my veins right alongside my blood. I come by this drive naturally, but I do get worked up even more when I sense an unmet need — like preventing a disease such as breast cancer.
SDN: As a medical professional, you go above and beyond by exploring options, where others have previously given up hope. What drives you to go the extra distance for your patients?
Dr. Ruddy: I’ve written a manuscript, a very rough draft autobiography told in a series of tweets. It’s a fast read; take a peek and I think you’ll see I’ve always gone the extra distance. I guess I like the exercise!
SDN: You have used your blog to provide medical information to others about cancer treatment and research in easy-to-understand terms. What are you hoping that others take away from your blog?
Dr. Ruddy: I want to explain what is often a bewildering subject — breast cancer. Because I have worked my way up the ladder of medicine from secretary to surgeon, I know first-hand how difficult it can be to lie on a stretcher, completely vulnerable and needy, and how valuable a kind word and sound information can be. It can make all the difference in the world. If I can do that for more women than I can actually lay hands on — and I can, via the Internet — then why not?
Quite simply, I love what I do and I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I’d like to help other women and make it easier for them to cope with the unknown and the dreaded known.
Special thanks to Dr. Ruddy for sharing with us! To hear more of Dr. Ruddy’s story, you can visit her blog or connect with her on Twitter. And for additional information on the Breast Health & Healing Foundation and ways you can get involved, check out their website.