Meet Noirin Lucas: Metastatic Peer Helpline Volunteer

Our new intern Riss, was given an assignment to interview Noirin, a SHARE Helpline volunteer who is living with metastatic breast cancer. She talks about her experience with the disease and her time with SHARE.

Riss: Can you provide us with a brief summary of your story, your treatment and what your emotional state has been?

Noirin: In 2008, at the age of 44, I was treated for primary breast cancer–a lump in my left breast with lymph node involvement in my underarm. After going through the requisite onerous rounds of surgery, chemo and radiation over a period of months, I began living "cancer-free" in late 2008. Then, in December 2010, I went to the emergency room to get an X-ray to see if I had a broken rib and it revealed swollen lymph nodes in my chest wall. Further tests showed that the cancer had metastasized to these lymph nodes and to some spots in my bone. My oncologist placed me on estrogen receptor blocker therapy, which was effective for about a year, and then in April 2011, she switched me to Xeloda. This drug has been working well for me. Things are stable. I am also on XGeva.

I was a latecomer to the understanding that you have to tend to your mental health as much as your physical. I had always used running as my therapy but it wasn't proving to be enough. I became severely depressed after my metastasis was diagnosed and suffered with it for several months before I finally joined a support group and began seeing a psychiatrist at my treatment center. I had never sought therapy of this kind before in my life, so it was quite a big deal for me to do so. I am so glad I did. I am in a much better place than I was when initially diagnosed. Life is pretty good, in fact.

Riss: What do you like best about volunteering at SHARE?

Noirin: Volunteering at SHARE gives me the feeling of usefulness that we all crave. Sometimes the person I call is just glad to be on the receiving end of another person reaching out and the content of the conversation is almost beside the point. At other times, the peer is in desperate need of real information and in those cases, the content of the conversation is extremely important.

Riss: What are the challenges you have faced being a peer volunteer? Is it difficult to relate to someone else's story?

Noirin: One of the difficulties I face is that I'm doing really well and I don't want to make the peer feel bad about that. I have found that I have a lot of strength and determination in the 2 1/12 years since I was diagnosed and while I won't go so far as to say that cancer has been positive for me, I have definitely experienced a lot of wonderful things that I wouldn't have if the disease had not come back.

I don't find it hard to relate to others' stories -- I can usually find some common ground no matter what.

Riss: Why did you decide to become a volunteer?

Noirin: I was invited to a dinner for people with metastasis at a restaurant in my neighborhood. A free meal on SHARE. This was the first I was hearing of the organization. I found that both the food and the company were very good at this dinner and when the form came around wondering if I'd be willing to volunteer, I checked off yes. I have done my share of volunteer work over the years but was not doing anything in particular at that time in my life and I realized I missed it.



Christine is the Breast Cancer Program Director at SHARE.