9 Questions for SHARE's Breast Cancer Helpline Volunteer Grace Muñoz
1. Why did you decide to be a SHARE Helpline Volunteer?
I like people in general, and I like to talk and have meaningful conversations. I knew I could relate my experience to help others in a positive way.
2. What do you like most about being a SHARE Volunteer?
How I make the caller feel after I had a conversation. Most of all, I like giving hope to a person who is overwhelmed, scared, in most cases, knowing nothing or very little of what they were about to face.
3. When were you diagnosed, and what was your diagnosis?
I was 52, no history in my family, knew no one who had had breast cancer. I was diagnosed with Stage 1, negative nodes, a 1-1/2 centimeter tumor. I was scared to death. In 1993, few people even spoke or mentioned the word cancer. It was a taboo subject.
I was treated at MSK; in those days that was the place to go. I had a wonderful prestigious surgeon, and she was so kind and reassuring. I felt so fortunate.
4. Where are you now, as far as your own breast cancer “journey?”
My journey was not an easy one. Until you get your pathology report, things are not always what they predicted at first. Turns out that my margins after my lumpectomy were not clean, so two weeks later I underwent additional surgery to have the margins cleaned. After another two weeks I was informed about additional spots that could turn into cancer down the road. Not to go into every detail, but I ended up with a Mastectomy. Three surgeries in less than six weeks overwhelmed me. It took me two years to heal physically and emotionally. I went forward with my life after that.
5. In addition to volunteering for SHARE, what else do you do? What do you (or did you) do for work?
I had held different jobs at the same company but I retired as an Assistant to a VP in corporate America, I enjoyed my job and did it well. My boss did not want me to retire, but my Dad’s health began to fail. I cared for him at home on a Hospice program for 5 months. He was a wonderful human being. I thank God I was there for him.
6. What do you do for fun?
Don’t mention it to anyone but at 78 my mind is ready to get back on a plane and continue my passion for traveling, which has taken me to over twenty countries around the world. But my body is slowing down and it’s in control. So far I am living an independent life and am very grateful that I am able to do it.
7. What did you learn about yourself while going through your own breast cancer experience?
I happen to come from a very loving Family--three loving sisters a kind and loving mother and father. I still today I cry when I mentioned them. Because I was raised in a very spiritual home, I have been able to extend kindness in my conversations to people who are in an emotional place with this disease. I learned to share positive thinking.
I have also learned give back in anyway I can. I have had a blessed life.
8. What priorities did you have before and after?
This journey changes you whether you want to or not. You question the purpose of your existence. You begin to notice things you took for granted.The word mortality takes a different meaning in your live. As time passes, you begin to live in gratitude, although we were thought to always live in gratitude when I was being raised, it is different now. Relationships become more meaningful. I convey to my callers to re-evaluate your relationship with your family and friends. Life is shorter as we age. You have to connect with people who lift your spirits and make you happy, ands leave behind those who just don’t know how to love and appreciate life.
9. Any other insights that you want to share?
After I retired I missed my Dad, so I volunteered for seven years in a nursing home. It humbled me and filled my heart. Volunteering can bring joy in ways you didn’t expect. It certainly nourishes your spirit. I have met such wonderful, unselfish women who volunteer at SHARE, many who are no longer with us. And I have heard callers say to me time after time God bless you for what you do. And I bless SHARE for the opportunity to do a worthwhile and meaningful service.