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A Night Out with “The Girls” and Jessica Sidener

By Jessica Fialkovich | @jfialkovich

Breast Cancer Awareness Month was founded to honor and support those at every step of the journey of the disease, and to raise awareness and funds to help fight the disease at earlier stages giving patients a better, fighting chance. Since 1985, a variety of organizations have been founded to organize walks, donations, and other events. However, Jessica Sidener believed that there are too few events around education for early detection, especially for younger women. She founded the nonprofit Night Out with “The Girls,” earlier this year and is already receiving national recognition and partnership opportunities.

What inspired you to start Night Out with “The Girls”?

I visit my doctors on a consistent-basis. I try to eat healthy, get to the gym and stay pretty active. I knew I was supposed to be doing self-breast exams; however, I did not do them regularly, for quite a few different reasons--I thought I was too young, I didn’t know how to do them, and I thought my husband would find it (for real!).

On January 9 (thanks to the 9News Buddy Check9 reminder), I decided to do a self-breast exam. I did not know what I was doing, but I felt a lump. It ended up being DCIS, a non-invasive, contained, low grade form of breast cancer. It was not even seen in my mammogram. Because of the early detection in January 2017, I was able to say I am a breast cancer survivor by February 27th (when I had my surgery).

Sidener, left, with a pair of instructional "girls."

Sidener, left, with a pair of instructional "girls."

Honestly, I was a little embarrassed that I was not doing my self-breast exams. However, during this journey, I learned so many of my friends, colleagues, family members also weren’t doing  self-breast exams, making their regular mammogram appointments, etc. for the same reasons I mentioned. They have only been educated either in a health class (maybe in high school) or in a clinician’s office--that is often cold, sterile, and not comfortable--and likely involve a paper gown open in the front.

I realized that most women actually have these real, raw and unfiltered conversations only when they are enjoying time with their girlfriends. It may be informal; but learning happens as information, situations, experiences, knowledge are all shared and discussed…and that is what inspired Night Out with “The Girls,” which is a unique approach to raise awareness and educate women about early breast cancer detection.

Really, Night Out with “The Girls” is just a new twist on the old-fashioned girls’ night out!

Tell me about how an event works, what can women expect when they are attending?

Night Out with “The Girls” combines what women enjoy (time with girlfriends) with early breast cancer detection/self-breast exam education. Small groups of girlfriends (about 8 to 12) get together at homes or other venues throughout the community.

A Night Out with "The Girls" event, where all attendees are guaranteed a little action. 

A Night Out with "The Girls" event, where all attendees are guaranteed a little action. 

What makes Night Out with “The Girls” unique is that a medical clinician and a breast cancer survivor also attend the get-together. The clinician shares how to take care of the “girls” (early breast cancer detection/self-breast exams) in an informal, conversational manner. In addition, the survivor who can share her breast cancer “story.”

What is your hope for the future of Night Out with “The Girls”?

My hope is that at every Night Out with “The Girls” event, at least one woman walks away inspired, empowered, and educated to take the steps necessary to detect breast cancer early. If she learns one thing AND puts that one thing into action, it is a success. I want to serve, educate and empower ten women at a time. I have hopes of making this a national movement!

What do you think is the biggest piece of advice missing for women in regards to breast cancer?

Simply take ownership of your “girls” and do those self-breast exams! I never thought breast cancer could happen to me. I am young, I have no family history and I am healthy/active. The great thing about self-breast exams is that they are fast, free and you can do them in the comfort of your home.  I encourage women, if they have never done a self-breast exam, to let go of the guilt and to not be embarrassed or ashamed. Start today; today is better than never!

How can the women of Denver help support your organization and see it grow?

Women of Denver can follow us on the Night Out with “The Girls” on Facebook. We are in the VERY early stages of developing this nonprofit. However, this is the perfect place to stay engaged with the Night Out with “The Girls” happenings and learn how to get involved . . . as a volunteer or to host your own Night Out with “The Girls” event.

On the RegVirginia McCarver