Jessica BakerI have always taken a liking to science and math—even as a kid. My passion for research and discovery shaped my college experience and led me on a path to pursuing my dream career helping to discover medications for cancer patients with little or no treatment options.

I never thought that one day, the patient would be me.

The day I became a cancer patient was also the day I became a cancer survivor. I’ll never forget getting diagnosed at age 36 with Stage II Breast Cancer and thinking to myself you are brave, you will give this fight everything that you have. My determination stemmed in part from my son, who was three at the time, and the countless other women who are fighting for another birthday, Christmas or summer vacation. I knew that the battle I had been fighting for so many years in the lab had suddenly become the very battle that would hopefully save my life and allow me to continue my search for a cure.

Closing the gap between scientist and patient

Following my diagnosis, I tested positive for the HER2 gene using a screening tool that I helped implement. Because of my research background, I knew that mine was an aggressive type of cancer, but I also knew that there was a very effective treatment that has seen a high rate of success in treating my specific type of tumor.

It has been five years since my diagnosis, which is an amazing testament to how far we’ve come!

My diagnosis and subsequent journey made me realize on an even deeper level just how personal the battle is for both patients and scientists alike. We are on the same side of the equation working toward a mutual goal of overcoming this devastating disease and living longer, healthier lives. I’m so fortunate that my work allows me to interact with patients and understand what they are going through. And for them, it’s so important that they know we can relate. I know this from experience.

A good reminder of why we do what we do

My son helped me get through my diagnosis, and he continues to remind me exactly why it’s so important that we continue to fight for a cure to this devastating disease. I’m reminded of this at work as well, where I keep a picture of my tumor at my desk. When I see it, I think of people with cancer and I feel an immediate sense of urgency and determination.

For me, pink is not just a color, it’s a symbol of our ongoing fight to beat this disease and pursue new advancements in the field of medicine. We still have a long road ahead, but we’ve made a lot of progress.  Amazing developments in the field of immuno-oncology have shown a great deal of promise, and there are a number of exciting discoveries in the works. I intend to be around to help bring those discoveries to life and make sure that cancer patients all over the world also have the opportunity to make their dreams come true.