Leanne Nakanishi



I was having the best time in 2002: planning a wedding, enjoying a successful career and completing my first marathon. I was tired, came home, took a nap, felt a sharp pain and discovered a lump. I immediately had my first mammogram, because I was in my early 30s. I had a lumpectomy, the first of three over three months. Initially, it was diagnosed as spreading to my lymph nodes, but it later changed to a very aggressive Stage 1 tumor. I had one year of chemotherapy/radiation and five years of Tamoxifen. 


My inspiration of breast cancer survivors includes my maternal grandma (two separate diagnoses), paternal aunt, maternal aunt, cousin and father (prostate cancer). My mom fought cancer for eight and a half years enduring clinical trials, knowing she would not be cured. But, she was determined to find a cure for others. My uncle passed from lung cancer after one week. 


Our love for each other reminded me of the unshakeable love Nancy Brinker and Susan Komen had for each other. My strength comes from my sisters, fiancé and everyone I have met through Komen. My advice for anyone diagnosed with cancer is to have hope and to speak with others who have walked that path. I have learned how precious every day is and to live life to the fullest. I love, pray, dance, take chances, I’m not be afraid to try, I know it’s OK to stumble, to get back up, to be silly, have fun, think outside of the box, and dare to do things you think you cannot do.


My first experience with Susan G. Komen was meeting one of the past executive directors at a health fair. I invited her to have an information booth at one of my United Methodist Women’s events. She had so much invaluable information to share and educate us about. She then gave me some volunteer information and I met Sharon Schlesinger from the Komen Los Angeles County Affiliate, who impressed me with her passion and dedication to finding a cure for breast cancer. I could not wait to volunteer with her! I became involved with the event she founded called Fashion for the Cure. I remember the first time I saw the Survivors’ Fashion Show and hearing some testimonies. It was one of the most powerful and inspirational moments I have ever experienced. Since then, the volunteer work for Komen is what means the most to me, because once we find a cure, we can all live in peace, wholeness and harmony.