By her mid-twenties, Brandi Rhoads ’06 was one of the most promising professionals in her field, excelling as a manager at a “Big 4” service firm and travelling the world. But at just 29 years old, her busy but happy life was interrupted by the realities of a breast cancer diagnosis.
This discovery came as a huge shock for Rhoads, an otherwise healthy and active young woman with very little family history of breast cancer. “It’s really forced me through some interesting experiences I never expected to find myself in, and it’s been difficult, but also a growing experience,” she says.
Three years later, Rhoads is making strides in patient advocacy for metastatic (Stage IV) breast cancer—the phase of the disease she was diagnosed with last year. Though this type of breast cancer is a terminal diagnosis, Rhoads is determined to live her fullest life, and is a steadfast advocate for thousands of other women in her position.
As part of her dedication to advocacy, Rhoads entered the Solano County Pageant in her hometown, Vacaville, Calif., for the crown of Ms. Vacaville. Rhoads saw a pageant entry as one way to share her story. The Ms. Vacaville pageant was an event she had grown up hearing about, one that she had seen many girls from her high school participate in. “It was something I thought about but never really had the confidence to do,” she says. “So as an adult…I thought, what a cool way to stand up and do something that as a younger woman I didn’t have the confidence to do.”
It was her very first pageant experience, and she walked away a queen—crown and all. Along with her crown and sash came a string of positive memories of the pageantry world to cherish. Rhoads discovered an institution that aims to empower girls and women, encouraging them to become active leaders in their community. Along with the other crown holders in her court, Rhoads is doing just that.
“When you’re wearing a crown and a sash, people are suddenly interested in what’s going on; it’s a tool that allows me to talk about important and very serious topics. My mission over the course of the year is to do what I can using that tool and influencing positive change,” she says.
During her year-long reign as Ms. Vacaville, Rhoads will participate in community service events, representing Solano County with her court.
“It’s been a really great platform to share my story,” she says. In addition to her service as Ms. Vacaville, Rhoads works as a patient advocate for organizations like METAvivor, a non-profit that she holds a personal connection to.
METAvivor gets its name from its focus on patients with metastatic breast cancer (MBC), deemed “metavivors.” The organization focuses on funding research for MBC, Rhoads’ specific diagnosis. As an advocate for METAvivor and other organizations, Rhoads aims to help influence legislative change and push for a cure. Her goal is to help women like her, who will always be undergoing some form of cancer treatment. Rhoads herself receives chemotherapy every three weeks in an attempt to stabilize her cancer, which slowly continues to grow.
“Despite all of the money and breast cancer research, very little of it actually goes to stage IV breast cancer research, which is the only type of research which is going to stop loss of life from breast cancer,” she says. “We really need to find a cure.”
Rhoads currently serves on the planning committee for METAvivor’s Legislative Advocacy Day, which takes place in October in Washington, DC. For the future, she looks forward to making a difference through community service and patient advocacy. She enjoys professional success working for a Sacramento consulting firm, managing the development of information systems for local and state governments. Rhoads, an economics major from UC San Diego’s Roosevelt College, counts her time at the university as being instrumental in her achievements. “I’m a big fan of women empowerment and technology and I think the foundation for my professional success, was my college career … UCSD is what built the foundation for me.”
As part of telling her story, Rhoads is harnessing the power of her new blog, “Beauty, Brains, and Breast Cancer.” In it, she gives life and health updates with the goal to “update, educate, advocate, and inspire” her readers. In the most inspiring way, Rhoads is generating change and positivity from an otherwise negative situation. “I want to show that it hasn’t stopped me from trying and living my life to the fullest of my abilities.”
Learn more at beautybrainsandbreastcancer.com