Leigh Hurst ’92, a breast cancer survivor, started “Feel Your Boobies,” a nonprofit organization with the goal of encouraging women to perform regular self-examinations to detect breast cancer early. At 7:30 p.m. tonight in Textor 101, Hurst will give a presentation on the campaign and how her education at Ithaca College helped her form her organization.
Assistant News Editor Aaron Edwards spoke with Hurst about her inspiration for creating the “Feel Your Boobies” campaign.
Aaron Edwards: What prompted you to come back to the college to talk about breast cancer awareness?
Leigh Hurst: I keep in touch with Steven Seidman [chair of the strategic communication department], and I had come up in 2007, taught a course and gave a speech, and he asked me to come back and do it again.
AE: What are some skills you’ve learned at Ithaca College that have helped you in forming the organization?
LH: One of the things I do with “Feel Your Boobies” is create a message that is meaningful and engaging to an audience that generally doesn’t pay attention to breast cancer messages at all. The focus on using the proper media strategies and focusing on your target audience has been something that’s definitely helped me create a successful campaign.
AE: What is that target demographic that your organization is trying to reach?
LH: The organization focuses on women under 40. The age that mammograms begin is age 40, in general. So, for women like myself — I was diagnosed at 33 — I wasn’t thinking about it at all as a marathon runner. I didn’t have a family history of the disease, and I was health conscious. I just didn’t think of myself at risk. I didn’t really listen to any of the mass clinical messages that were out there about self breast exams or anything relating to breast health because I didn’t really think it affected me too much. If I hadn’t been aware of my own body and known how my body felt normally, I probably wouldn’t have noticed that a change occurred.
AE: What were some of the challenges you’ve come across forming the organization?
LH: The fact that I didn’t do it intentionally. A lot people that start companies or organizations have a plan — a business plan or even a loose idea of what they are trying to do. And I didn’t have any of that. In the early years of the organization, I spent a lot of time doing research to figure out if I even had anything to offer. It took me a while to understand who our true target audience was. And it took quite a while to really hone what our mission was and to make sure we weren’t redundant with other very valid and successful organizations that are out there already.
AE: How did you come up with the name “Feel Your Boobies”?
LH: It actually began as an accident. When I was going through my treatment, I would joke around with my friends and say, “You guys gotta feel your boobies,” just to be lighthearted about it with them. It wasn’t an intentional thing. If [the organization] approaches the idea of feeling your boobies in a fun and fresh way, it might get through to those girls that were like me. It might make them laugh and chuckle a little bit, but it’ll get them thinking about something that they wouldn’t have thought [of].