On August 19, 2002, Dikla Benzeevi got some unexpected news: she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 32 years old.
Though she had lost both of her parents to cancer, the possibility that she could be diagnosed herself at such a young age just wasn’t on her radar. Even still, with the help of her older brothers, she dove in, making innumerable appointments with specialists across Los Angeles, where she lived.
As the days and appointments ticked by, more details about her diagnosis emerged. The cancer was triple-positive. A scan revealed a suspicious nodule on her spine, but it was deemed a cyst, placing Dikla at stage III.
At that time drugs like Herceptin were not yet FDA-approved for someone in Dikla’s position, but she had heard about Herceptin and pushed until she found a doctor who agreed to treat her with it. A powerful self-advocate from the start, she sought out multiple opinions from across the U.S. and around the world to determine the best options for her treatment.
But the one thing she frustratingly could not find were other young women like her. She asked at doctors’ offices and hospitals to be connected, and reached out to support organizations. “I called so many hotlines, but no one had anyone close to my age,” she remembers.
By early 2003, Dikla was in the middle of treatment and “starving to meet other women my age.” She heard about a conference for young women taking place in Pennsylvania (which YSC was a part of ), and was determined to go even though the timing wasn’t great — she was recovering from her recent lumpectomy, and also receiving chemotherapy, which had suppressed her immune system.
“It wasn’t the best situation, but I had this great need. I had to do it,” Dikla remembers. That need powered her through getting cleared to travel from her medical team, making the arrangements to attend the conference, and flying cross-country alone.
When she arrived at the conference, she was glad she’d pushed to go. “It was the best experience ever — the camaraderie, the support…what a relief being around people who understood (my) concerns!”
While at the conference, Dikla met two other young women from…