Six years ago, Beth Silverstein took charge of her destiny.
After consulting with an interdisciplinary team from UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Charlotte resident decided to have a bilateral mastectomy on Feb. 3, 2015, and a Salpingo-oophorectomy to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes the following year.
Silverstein, 43, took those steps after learning she was at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Genetic testing at UNC revealed she was positive for a BRCA1 mutation. Based on those results, and her family history, experts at the clinic informed her she had high lifetime cancer risks – up to 80 percent for breast cancer, and up to 50 percent for ovarian cancer.
Silverstein said her decision to undergo preventive surgery was not made lightly – she wanted to stay ahead of her cancer risks. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39, and her grandmother passed away from the disease at a young age.
“People have said ‘you’re so brave, and you’re so strong,’” she said. “I’m not; I just made the decision of what’s right for me … I have to continue to figure out how I can make a difference with my experience for others.”
Celebrating five years
In 2020, Silverstein knew that she wanted to celebrate five years since her double mastectomy in a meaningful way. Working with UNC Lineberger development staff, she started planning a crowdfunding campaign to raise $50,000 for the Cancer Genetics Clinical Fund – $10,000 for each year since her surgeries.
Using a generous gift, Silverstein and the UNC Lineberger team launched the crowdfunding campaign on February 3 with a challenge that gifts would be matched up to $10,000 in the campaign’s first 48 hours. Silverstein hit the goal in well under that amount of time.
“I attribute my success to my amazing friends and family and the fact that everyone is affected by cancer,” Silverstein said. “Crowdfunding allows you to have flexibility in how you are raising money — from matching gifts to local events — and the ability for your story and efforts to quickly reach those outside your network.”
With the help of UNC Lineberger staff throughout the month, Silverstein continued reaching crowdfunding milestones through social media, video messages and emails to friends and family. Matching gift programs from participating companies also gave her a boost, receiving over $6,000 in gifts from colleagues through the Bank of America Matching Gift Program.
“Lineberger was so helpful,” Silverstein said. “Asking for money is not a strength of mine, but the team had so many tips and they were there with me all along the way. They helped me own my ideas and figure out the channels to make them happen.”
At the end of February, Silverstein had soared past her campaign goal, totaling $70,000 in donations. She designated the money to benefit UNC Lineberger’s fund for clinical cancer genetics – the starting point of her own journey.
“I chose an avenue and platform that touched people affected by all types of cancers, and it really boils down to the power of people,” Silverstein said. “If you take your networks and put them into action, you can quickly turn it into what you need to make a real difference. Genetics research and access is critical to combating cancer, and I wanted to help Lineberger continue to be angels to others as they embark on their own journey.”
Interested in hosting your own crowdfunding campaign to make a big impact for your area of interest within UNC Health? To learn more, please visit us at unchf.org/hostafundraiser and fill out our interest form.