Dakota graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 2011 with a degree in biology, a fantastic job lined up, and a perceived relatively healthy body (with the exception of her very active chocolate addiction). Two months later after a severe bout of anemia warranting a trip to the ER and an emergency colonoscopy, she was diagnosed at the age of 22 with the rare genetic disease, Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (F.A.P.). F.A.P. increases the lifetime risk of several cancers one of which, colon cancer, she was already in the early stages of developing. Reluctantly, she traded in her post-college job for surgical gowns at the end of 2011 to have her cancerous colon removed. While working abroad in mid-2013, she encountered another trick up F.A.P.’s sleeve and was diagnosed with a desmoid tumor, an even rarer soft tissue sarcoma, which she currently manages with an oral chemo. If anything, this tumor confirmed that while she hoped to be one in a million, statistically speaking, she’s closer to four in a million! Appalled by the lack of information available on her disease, Dakota created the first F.A.P. geared YouTube channel (FAPulousTV) where she shares the experience and research she’s accumulated with F.A.P. and serves as an ambassador for the Hereditary Colon Cancer Foundation in an attempt to enable her diseased peers to better advocate for their own healthcare. She hopes to continue working in the patient advocacy and education sector while occasionally putting some literal distance between her and her diagnoses by expanding upon the list of places traversed by her colonless body (which currently includes Croatia, Bosnia, Israel, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, France, and Spain)!
Upon graduating from Muhlenberg College in 2007, Cara’s dad asked her to get tested for the BRCA gene mutation, an inherited genetic mutation that significantly elevates a person’s lifetime risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Cara’s mom passed from breast cancer when Cara was just three and her maternal grandmother passed from ovarian cancer before that, so there was a high likelihood of Cara testing positive for this mutation. Though it was not a surprise that the results were positive for the BRCA 1 mutation, it was still hard news to take. Cara opted for surveillance because… hey… before 30 is too young for breast cancer, right? Three years later, at 25, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Again, it was shocking and upsetting, but she got through the surgeries and chemo treatments and emotional turmoil with help from some great support groups in DC, where she was living at the time. In 2013, she moved back to Philadelphia, where she grew up, to attend Drexel University’s Arts Administration Master’s program, and was disappointed at the lack of support groups for young people here in the 2-1-5. That’s how YACC came into being. In her “new normal,” Cara enjoys hoarding cadbury cream eggs to last between Easters, talking to other people’s dogs on the street, and belting out show tunes. Her day job is Program & Communications Manager at the Wagner Free Institute of Science, which you should all visit.