Meet a Helpline Volunteer: Kathy

Meet a Helpline Volunteer: Kathy


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

When I got my diagnosis, I really didn’t know where to turn. I felt as if I were falling off a cliff into the unknown that first week between my diagnosis and the results of my biopsy. Much later, when I saw the SHARE brochure later in my oncologist’s office, I thought, this is how I could help people who feel as lost as I did when I first was diagnosed.

What do you like most about volunteering with SHARE?

I really like feeling that I am part of the army fighting this disease. I have been working the helpline for almost a decade. When someone calls who is terrified, and I’m able to provide information and share my experience of successfully surviving breast cancer, I feel happy. Knowing that I provided hope and understanding to the caller is very rewarding.

When were you diagnosed?

In 2008, just before my 50th birthday, premenopausal.

What was your diagnosis?

I was diagnosed with Stage 1, estrogen and progesterone positive invasive breast cancer (Stage I HR+ breast cancer), grade 9. I had a high Oncotype DX score, indicating it would be likely to recur unless treated with radiation and chemotherapy.

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

It has been ten years since my diagnosis, partial mastectomy, radiation and chemotherapy. I then had an oophorectomy to remove my ovaries. I took tamoxifen for 3 years. I was being monitored for uterine cancer, and I did get uterine cancer in 2011. I had a hysterectomy via robotic surgery. My surgeon operated the robot’s surgical blades using a mouse on a computer in the other room, viewing my insides through the microscope in the robot. She could see me through the microscope better than if she were standing in front of me in the surgery room. Recovery was much quicker than a regular hysterectomy. I was able to give a presentation at a conference in Atlantic City several days later. Now I am taking exemestane (Aromasin) and will soon be finished with my ten years of hormone therapy.

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

I am a wife and mother of two adult daughters and one cat (my stay-at-home son, Mr. Bobo). I am a Finance Manager for Academic Affairs at the City University of New York and serve on the boards of the Work First Foundation, Ethics in Education Network and the Economic Fundamentals Initiative.

What do you do for fun?

I actually enjoy keeping up on the latest advances in breast cancer treatment through the resources on the SHARE website, including articles, webinars, and Oncology Times. I am fascinated by and in awe of, the science that saved my life. Had I been born in a previous generation, I would probably not have survived.

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

It was a blessed experience through which I learned how loved I am.

What priorities did you have before and after?

Before my diagnosis, I was a workaholic and did not rest or take steps to reduce stress. Since my diagnosis, I have focused on nutrition and fitness. I walk 10,000-20,000 steps daily, lift weights with a trainer 4 times a week, and experiment with cooking healthy but delicious recipes.

Any other insights that you want to share?

Breast cancer for me was actually a positive experience. Cancer is such a dreaded word. But it no longer strikes fear in me. I learned that I could survive surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and hormone therapy and look death in the eye. After my recovery from surgery, I went to work and then to the gym every day, through radiation and chemotherapy (although I did learn to stay in bed on the third day after each chemotherapy infusion). Now I know that I am strong enough to face anything that life sends my way.

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