Who We Are - After Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Who We Are

In 1992, Emmy award-winning broadcast journalist Melodie Wilson Oldenburg announced on live television she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. At a time when cancer—especially breast cancer—was rarely discussed openly, Melodie chose to use her public position to speak out about her personal experience with the disease.

She started to receive letters and calls from people she had never met. They too had been diagnosed with breast cancer and wanted to provide hope and guidance by sharing their personal experience with her. Melodie quickly realized the benefits of emotional support but recognized a tremendous gap in care—too many people lacked resources and access to quality, personalized support.

Leaving her extraordinary career in 1998, after working for WTMJ-TV and WITI-TV, she brought together breast cancer patients, survivors, physicians, clinicians, and caregivers to launch ABCD: After Breast Cancer Diagnosis on June 15, 1999, with the founding vision: “No one should go through breast cancer alone.”

Since that day, ABCD has been singularly focused on providing free, one-to-one emotional support to anyone impacted by the disease. Our signature service is creating a unique match between someone who needs support and an ABCD Mentor who not only shares a similar diagnosis and treatment plan, but also has similar ages, common interests, personal characteristics, career paths, and family dynamics.

ABCD Mentors are volunteers who are at least one year past completing their breast cancer treatment, are living with metastatic disease, or are a care partner. Every Mentor is vetted and interviewed by ABCD staff and then participates in comprehensive training to learn how to provide emotional support.

Starting with 23 Mentors in 1999 and focused primarily on serving people in Southeast Wisconsin, ABCD has strategically expanded to an international organization, leveraging advances in technology like the internet and cell phone usage. In 25 years, we have trained more than 850 Mentors across the United States and, because all services are delivered virtually, ABCD has proudly served more than 109,000 people from New York to California, Alaska to Florida, Australia to Sweden.

As a non-profit organization, ABCD’s growth continues to be sustained and accelerated by the dedication, generosity, and commitment of many of Milwaukee’s community and corporate leaders. Year after year, we can count on our hometown to ensure that our critical services are always available. As we move into our next 25 years, demand continues to rise as more people than ever are diagnosed or are living with breast cancer. ABCD will always be here—ready and able to provide hope, compassion, and understanding when people need it most.

People’s lives are turned upside down and inside out after a breast cancer diagnosis. Through the power of ABCD’s one-to-one support—and the vision of Melodie Wilson Oldenburg—no one needs to go through it alone.

The Power of One-to-One

Decades of research by the National Cancer Institute and other leading survivorship organizations indicate that patients who take advantage of nonclinical support like ABCD’s customized, one-to-one support are more likely to finish treatment, have improved survival rates, and show a reduced risk of recurrence while experiencing less distress, healthier social relationships, and improved quality of life. This type of support also benefits patients’ decision-making skills, as sharing of information between peers increases knowledge about the disease, treatments, and coping skills.1

And for ABCD Mentors, volunteering can have positive social and emotional health benefits, such as greater life satisfaction, longer life, and lower rates of depression.

1 Kowitt, S.D., Ellis, K.R., Carlisle, V. et al. Peer support opportunities across the cancer care continuum: a systematic scoping review of recent peer-reviewed literature. Support Care Cancer 27, 97–108 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-018-4479-4

ABCD’s “Leaping Lady” by artist Dave Cutler represents a breast cancer patient’s journey from fear and darkness to hope and light.

“I was honored when ABCD asked me to create art for the organization. It makes me happy to know that my work can help a meaningful cause. Doing so is perhaps my greatest joy in being an artist, that is, to help others even if it is in some small way.”
— Dave Cutler


109K +

People served in all 50 states & 10 countries



Total one-to-one matches



Mentors trained

* Statistics as of May 2024


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