Why did you decide to become a SHARE Helpline Volunteer and Peer?
Many years ago I lost my wonderful sister, Julia, to breast cancer. When I was also diagnosed with breast cancer--almost 17 years ago--I needed to do something for others going through the same battle. I heard about SHARE from my oncologists, and I went to one of SHARE's support group. It felt so comforting to be in an environment where others could understand me, and I could relate to their problems. Within days, I called SHARE to volunteer. Initially, I answered the phone, stuffed envelopes, and did anything else that was needed. Within a year, I become a co-facilitator of the breast cancer ongoing support group. I continued leading this group for a number of years and then went on to facilitate the young women's group and the Tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors groups. I also helped with the scheduling of all the support and educational groups. I have been a volunteer on the SHARE Helpline for over 15 years, and it has been very rewarding.
What do you like most about volunteering with SHARE?
Being a SHARE Helpline volunteer has become a VERY important part of my life. It has helped me accept my sister's death and to understand that I'm not alone. So many people are faced with major challenges and that as caring compassionate women, we can help others and at the same time help ourselves.
When were you diagnosed?
I was diagnosed in 2002.
What was your diagnosis?
Initially, I was diagnosed with DCIS in my left breast, but after a 'non-clean' margin lumpectomy, I had a bilateral mastectomy. During the surgery, invasive lobular cancer was found in my right breast. It might seem strange, but I consider myself to be very lucky. If the original lumpectomy had clean margins, then my invasive cancer would probably have progressed to a more advanced stage of cancer.
Where are you now, as far as your own breast cancer “journey?”
Although, I don't currently have any active cancer treatment, the breast cancer journey never really ends. There is always questionable tests results and worries, but I have learned to accept that and I'm very lucky to have had wonderful, caring doctors and medical staff that have helped tremendously.
In addition to volunteering for SHARE, what else do you do? What do you do for work?
I have a consulting job in the computer technology field. I find this work to be very challenging, and I've developed wonderful friendships there.
What do you do for fun?
I love to read, travel, and go to shows. In addition, I have a wonderful husband, two sons and four grandkids, with whom I spend lots of time.
What did you learn about yourself while going through your breast cancer experience?
Life can have both wonderful times and very stressful times. It is important to find ways to balance these. I have learned how to accomplish this and to be able to truly appreciate the good times.
What priorities did you have before and after?
My major priority is to try make my life have more meaning. SHARE has been a tremendous help to me. Every time I speak to someone calling the Helpline and I can help them cope with all they are going through, it makes me feel that my journey has more meaning. So many of the callers have expressed how much better they feel after talking to me (and other volunteers).
Any other insights that you want to share?
My great wish is that a true cure can be found for cancer, and that SHARE, and other organizations like it, will no longer be needed. Until that day comes, however, I hope that SHARE will continue to provide the hope, connection, and many other kinds of help that's been given to so many people over the years.