Meet a Helpline Volunteer: Agnes Soloman

Why did you decide to be a SHARE Breast Cancer Helpline volunteer?
After my mastectomy, I was visited in the hospital by a survivor/volunteer from Reach to Recovery. She was a healthy-looking, vibrant woman. Talking to her completely changed my perspective and made me realize that one could have a normal life after cancer. I was so impressed by this visit that I decided to become a volunteer myself.

What do you like most about being a Helpline Volunteer and a Support Group Facilitator?
I like helping people understand their illness, supporting them during treatment, and seeing them complete this difficult journey. I feel privileged when they open up and share their feelings.

When were you diagnosed, and what was your diagnosis?
I was diagnosed in 1990, at an early stage, with ductal and lobular carcinoma. There was no tumor, but the lobular cancer had become invasive.

Where are you now in your breast cancer experience?
I am a 28 year survivor. I have had a full, productive life during this time. I am diligent about going for check-ups, but I have also accepted living with uncertainty.

In addition to volunteering for SHARE, what else do you do? What do you (or did you) do for work?
I worked in engineering, designing mostly air conditioning systems for large projects, especially airports. I am retired now. In addition to SHARE, I volunteer at the Museum of Modern Art.

What do you do for fun?
I consider volunteering fun, but I love doing other things as well: going to museums, seeing films, taking photos, cooking, being in nature, and, last but not least, being with family and friends.

What did you learn about yourself while going through your breast cancer experience?
I was surprised to find out that I actually liked being in a support group. The friendships we started then have remained an important part of our lives. We still get together occasionally. I also found out that helping others was what made me feel better.

Any other insights that you want to share?
They say that any experience that doesn’t kill you is a good experience. Well, I could have done without the breast cancer experience. Yet, I have to admit that it was a growing, formative event in my life. I learned to be more open to others. I learned to distinguish what is important from what is not. And I learned to value the good things in my life, including the small, everyday stuff. Most importantly, I learned that our life is finite and our time valuable.