Meet a Helpline Volunteer: Mary

Meet a Helpline Volunteer: Mary

Why did you decide to become a SHARE Helpline Volunteer and Peer?

SHARE helped me a lot when I was in treatment, and I wanted to give back and pay it forward.

You worked at SHARE as Helpline Manager, but you volunteered before and after.  What do you like most about volunteering with SHARE?

It's always an uplifting experience. Interacting with the women warriors at SHARE, and seeing how they comfort and encourage each other, restores my faith in humanity.

 When were you diagnosed? What was your diagnosis?

At age 34, I was diagnosed with stage 1 invasive ductal carcinoma. The tumor was in my left breast and was ER/PR+, Her2-, and I had no lymph node involvement. I had fertility treatments for an egg harvest, a lumpectomy, eight rounds of CMF chemotherapy, a bilateral mastectomy, and several reconstructive procedures including insertion of silicone implants and several nipple tattoos - because they keep fading, which is annoying. I might have finally gotten a good one, though. Through SHARE, I learned about tattoo artist Marnie Rustemeyer and her company, Medi Ink. She does wonderful, 3D tattoos for the price of a donation of your choosing. (She can be reached at [email protected] if you're interested.)

Where are you now, as far as your own breast cancer “journey?”  

Next month will be the 10-year anniversary of my diagnosis! I still take Tamoxifen, as doctors now recommend that patients take it for 10 years rather than five. Luckily I've had almost no side effects, so I'd take it forever if my oncologist wanted me to do so! My chart at Sloan-Kettering reads NED, the three most beautiful letters in the English language. No Evidence of Disease. My mother died of metastatic breast cancer, after about a 10-year remission, so the more days, months, and years of NED that I accumulate, the more grateful I am.

What did you learn about yourself while going through your breast cancer experience?  

I was reminded that I have a LOT of really good people in my life. Friends and family went above and beyond to help me through treatment and surgeries and I couldn't be more grateful. I read once that your loved ones are the people who weave the safety net beneath your tightrope. I am lucky to have many extraordinary weavers supporting me.

In addition to volunteering for SHARE, what else do you do? What do you do for work?

I am a Development Manager at The New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute (NYSCF), so I help raise money for medical stem cell research. (www.nyscf.org)

What do you do for fun?

In my free time I enjoy going to the theater, live music, reading, movies, TV, photography, traveling, visiting my spectacularly adorable 10-month-old nephew, Callum, in Baltimore, and laughing it up with my friends.

Any other insights that you want to share?  

Let people help you. Your friends and family are concerned about you and want to help you fight, but they don't know how. So let them bring you dinners, and do your laundry, and clean your bathroom, and even just hang out and watch movies while you are recovering. It'll be a gift to both of you.

 


National Helpline:
844-ASK-SHARE