Ayanna Z. Kalasunas
Ayanna Z. Kalasunas joined LBBC’s board of directors in 2015 and brought valuable marketing and e-commerce knowledge to the organization. She also brought a radiant smile and unstoppable passion, says LBBC board member Dana Donofree.
“She was just full of life and joy and laughter that was totally contagious,” Dana says.
Ayanna passed away May 15, 2017, in Philadelphia, from metastatic breast cancer. She was 37 years old.
Many people in Ayanna’s family have faced cancer, including her mother, who also lost her life to metastatic breast cancer in 2015. Two years after Ayanna’s metastatic diagnosis she married the love of her life, Mike, who provided unconditional love and support during her 4 years of treatment.
“With Ayanna’s spirit and her courage, she was able to open up and talk about the disease and her family history to a community that needed to hear that voice,” Dana says. “She was an amazing spokesperson in regard to bringing light to not only young women, but young women of color.”
Ayanna spoke at LBBC programs, wrote blog posts and participated in LBBC photo and video shoots. She was one of three women to receive the Going Beyond Award at our 25th Anniversary Butterfly Ball, held on November 12, 2016, in Philadelphia. The award recognizes individuals who have used their personal experience with breast cancer to help others.
LBBC board member Marisa Gefen, MD, says that award was well deserved. She calls Ayanna a “connector” who could make anybody feel at ease.
“She could tell her story in this way that was just so moving and real,” Dr. Gefen says.
In Ayanna’s honor, family friend Valerie Jowers is serving the rest of her board term.
“What’s unique about Ayanna was her optimism, even from the first moment of her diagnosis,” says LBBC CEO Jean A. Sachs, MSS, MLSP. “She became like a spokesperson for us, giving voice to what it means to be young and metastatic. She really loved life and had so much more she wanted to do and experience. Breast cancer took it all away too soon.”