In this month’s Get to Know the ZBC Board interview, Judy Wetterer shares her wisdom as a survivor and advocate for breast cancer risk reduction. She has been involved in ZBC from the very beginning of the organization when it was Marin Breast Cancer Watch, later served as a member of the ZBC Teen Initiative Task Force and is now in her third year as a member of the board.
Q: Could you tell me about your day job?
A: I am the Director of Marketing at Wareham Development, one of the largest private development companies in the Bay Area. We have properties all over the Bay Area, with most of them in the East Bay. I oversee our marketing, public relations, and community relations efforts. We are very involved in the communities we develop and we support many different programs in the public schools including after-school and enrichment programs. We have a large cluster of research tenants and one of the most rewarding events we host brings high schools to tour East Bay companies with STEM jobs awaiting them. You literally see the lights go on in these kids’ eyes when they get it.
Q: What motivated you to become a member of the board?
A: Rose Barlow, the ZBC Executive Director, had asked me to join a Teen Initiative Task Force. She knew about my outreach with teens to encourage them to enter STEM. Then I eventually became a board member. I have been aware of Zero Breast Cancer since it was Marin Breast Cancer Watch. I actually went to their first fundraiser with a bald head from breast cancer treatment and was quite into the organization at the time. I’ve always appreciated that ZBC looks at causes. I love working with the board and the staff. Everyone I’ve worked with, from those who have been on the board for many years to those who have just joined, has been such an inspiration. I love that the board has attracted younger members who are vital to the effort. Rose and her team are the epitome of passionate professionals with incredible experience and knowledge. They have taken Zero Breast Cancer so far.
Q: What does ZBC mean to you?
A: While Zero Breast Cancer is a fabulous resource for other survivors, I am most interested in the woman behind me and the girl behind me. I know that there are men also that are affected by this disease. I’m very aware of them as well. Cures are very important, but causes are equally important. It’s really wonderful that so many people are surviving breast cancer these days but it still wreaks havoc with everybody. The treatment is so harsh and it scares everybody. Family is impacted totally. The kids of a mother being treated are scared that they might lose a parent and it’s something that’s very hard for them to ever get over. It takes a long, long time to recover physically from chemo and radiation, and survivors are at risk for other cancers. And too many people are not surviving. It’s better to never get the diagnosis. It’s really important to do everything we can to prevent as much of this as we can. I know it can’t completely be prevented, but there are certainly things we can do to reduce our risk of getting it. People need to know that what they put into their bodies, down their throats impacts their breast cancer risk.
Q: How has breast cancer touched you personally?
A: I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 and have been cancer free for 18 years. I was blessed to have a kind of breast cancer that was treatable. I believe that a perfect storm created my tumor. I had a tumor that was estrogen sensitive, and I think part of the cause was that I overdosed on estrogen. So I want everybody to know about how the environment can increase risk.
Q: What is your favorite ZBC memory?
A: I love the enthusiasm and the celebration that occurs at the annual Dipsea hikes. All of them. It’s an incredibly special day and we are blessed with a really beautiful place in Old Mill Park. It’s so encouraging to see all the wonderful volunteers over the years who have participated in it.
Q: When you talk to friends, family and colleagues about ZBC, what are the most important things you want them to take away from the conversation?
A: That ZBC is a fabulous resource for them. I want them to know that it’s important to keep messages simple so that they are easy to grasp and share. Getting information and sharing simple messages in simple ways is so important. I want them to know that there are a lot of things people do to their bodies that increase their risk of cancer. Things like drinking alcohol increase your risk. Smoking and vaping increase risk. I see that a lot in the Bay Area, especially how popular alcohol is. I see a lot of teens and young adults smoking or vaping. Not everybody knows to avoid plastic bottles. They don’t always know that the chemical that allows plastic to hold its shape leeches into water and that chemical gets metabolized as a xenoestrogen (a compound that mimics the actions of hormones). So you just have to educate people on how to think twice about what they put into their bodies.
Q: What are your hopes for the organization?
A: My hope for the organization is that it can expand and grow regionally but also across socioeconomic borders so that everyone has access to readily understandable information that will help them to reduce their risk of breast cancer or any kind of cancer.
Q: How do you support the mission of ZBC?
A: I am very much a proponent of ZBC’s mission of translating research into language that I can understand and that I can share with others. I share information with everyone. I share everything, every newsletter and Facebook post that goes out. A lot of my friends from all over the country tell me that they are so appreciative that I do that because they share the info with their kids and grandkids. Some of the tenants at Wareham are cancer researchers, so I talk to them about what has happened to me and make sure they know about ZBC. Plus, I go wherever Rose sends me to represent or talk about ZBC.
Q: What is one surprising or fun fact about you that our readers might not know?
A: This is silly, but I recently learned that I am descended from the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. I apparently have some 2,000 new relatives!
This interview was conducted and written up by Lianna Hartmour, ZBC Education Coordinator.