Ambassadors

Debra Braddock

New Haven

Debra Braddock (formerly Madden) is a 2-time cancer survivor who was first diagnosed at the age of 22 years as a young adult shortly after she’d graduated from college. She had been struggling with unexplained symptoms for several years–symptoms that she later learned were “classic” for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After a particularly horrific bout of coughing during which Debra couldn’t catch her breath, her father insisted on bringing her for a chest x-ray. The moment she saw that x-ray, time was divided into “before” and “after.” She finally received her explanation: she had stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Thus began her entry into young adulthood and a world comprised of painful biopsies, CT scans, chemotherapy, radiation, and more time spent with her oncology nurses than with her friends and new work colleagues. As many young adult cancer survivors will tell you, receiving such a diagnosis at that time of your life brings with it multiple unique, difficult challenges. And for some of us, not only does it divide time, but it shapes who we are henceforward. For Debra, it has affected every important adult decision of her life, including career choices, when to get married, the question of having children, whether and when to move, and on and on and on. And again, as with far too many young adult cancer survivors, in the years following Debra’s treatment for Hodgkin’s, she went on to develop several serious late effects secondary to that treatment, including serious cardiac issues in her 30s and a second cancer diagnosis at the age of 42: this time, stage 2 ER+, PR-, HER2- breast cancer. It was following Debra’s second cancer diagnosis that she became a nationally active cancer research advocate. One afternoon shortly after her bilateral mastectomy and reconstructive surgery and a day or so after she’d once again begun chemotherapy, she began her transition from a patient to a patient advocate. She was reading about a breast cancer survivor who decided that she wanted to gain a seat at the table with clinicians and investigators where research decisions were made. She joined the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) and applied for their extremely competitive and rigorous advanced six-day scientific course, called “Project LEAD,” that focuses on the biology of breast cancer, genetics and genomics, epigenetics, epidemiology, research design, advocacy, and more. Debra decided then and there that when she completed her active cancer treatment, she was going to apply for the NBCC’s “Project LEAD.” She applied and was as ecstatic as when she’d received her college acceptance letter when she learned that she’d gotten in. She walked into that class in Denver as a shy, recovering cancer patient and walked out as a passionate cancer research advocate with countless lifelong new friends who were fellow breast cancer survivors. She immediately started to make additional connections and shortly established partnerships with scientists and clinicians to design breast cancer research protocols, began to review breast cancer research proposals for the Department of Defense (DOD)’ Breast Cancer Research Program and other research panels, and became a member of several Scientific Advisory Committees. Further, as one who had already been a medical writer for many years, she began to write journal articles, patient educational materials, and commentary on breast cancer and other medical and health issues. As a nationally active cancer research advocate, Debra is a member of the NBCC; several committees and subcommittees with the ECOG/ACRIN Cancer Research Group; was a member of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)’s inaugural Advisory Panel on the Assessment of Prevention, Diagnosis, and Treatment Options, and regularly participates on integration programmatic panel grant reviews for the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs’ Breast Cancer Research Program. Due to her frustration with the lack of scientific rigor regarding complex medical issues reported in the popular media, she also began a blog that deconstructs and shines a light on the often misleading, sensationalized, or downright inaccurate information provided to the public in her ongoing efforts to improve health literacy and ensure that patients are able to make informed decisions as active members of their own healthcare teams. You can find her blog at https://cancerresearchadvocate.com/. Ever since her diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Debra is passionate about taking complex medical information and making it understandable, timely, accessible, and actionable for patients, their caregivers, consumers, clinicians, researchers, and additional audiences. In fact, she recently left her long-time position at an ambulatory neurology practice–where she served as the health information technology / electronic health record (EHR) project manager and as a clinical systems specialist after her regional hospital system acquired her practice. She did so, so that she may concentrate full time on her content writing, editing, and blogging as a freelancer / contractor on important medical and health issues. Debra wanted to establish a name and logo for her new business that captured her eagle-eye attention to detail in a whimsical, interesting way, so she and her husband came up with the name, “The Persnickety Scrivener.” He then designed a logo that highlights a bespectacled bunny busy at work editing a towering stack of work—just the way that Debra prefers it.