Meet a Helpline Volunteer: Sheila

Meet a Helpline Volunteer: Sheila

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

Being matched with a peer with the same diagnosis as mine, and joining SHARE’s DCIS Support Group, sustained me during this trying period in my life. I felt that SHARE was there for me during my entire process: biopsy, lumpectomy, radiation treatment and adjuvant therapy. SHARE offered me emotional support, comfort and knowledge. I wanted to be there for other individuals whose lives were in an emotional turmoil after receiving a cancer diagnosis. We survivors understand the plight of those living with cancer.

What do you like most about volunteering with SHARE?

I like working with the diverse group of callers and the impact that I have on their lives. I have always enjoyed working with people, helping them with their problems, providing answers to their questions, and offering coping mechanisms during a crisis. When I see that their morale improves, I get great satisfaction. My reward is seeing that my assistance has made a difference in their lives.

When were you diagnosed?

I was diagnosed in July of 2004 with DCIS and LCIS in my left breast (ER+/ PR+). LCIS is not a cancer. It is detected on a biopsy and it's an indication of an increased probability for contracting cancer in the future.

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

I am considered cancer-free, but I am still extremely vigilant because friends of mine have had recurrences after 15 or 20 years. I see my surgeon once a year and my medical oncologist once or twice a year. I go for my annual diagnostic mammogram and have 2 sonograms a year.

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

Volunteering is in my blood. I participate in a prayer vigil for people who have serious maladies, and who believe in the power of prayer, 3 times a week. I'm a long term participant in a program called Partners in Torah. My current partner is a young woman living in Miami with 3 young children. We have been learning together on topics of mutual interest for the last 5 1/2 years and have become close friends. During my career as a high school teacher, I tutored students during my prep period. I also take classes at my Temple, where I serve as a trustee.

What do you do for fun?

I love to go to art museums and the theatre. Recently, I went to the Whitney Biennial and the Nassau County Museum of Art. I belong to TDF and was able to get discount tickets for "Beautiful" and "Fiddler on the Roof". I highly recommend both plays.

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

When I first learned that I had breast cancer, I was in a state of shock. I remembered my father's famous words: "Think positive; bad will come by itself.” I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and made appointments with 3 surgeons, 2 radiation oncologists, and 2 medical oncologists. My sons accompanied me to my various medical appointments. We discussed amongst ourselves which physicians would be best for me. I'm still seeing these doctors today, because I feel I made the right decisions. It was apparent to me that I was a lot stronger than I thought I was, and could think clearly during a time of crisis.

What priorities did you have before and after?

I feel that I grew as a person from my bout with cancer. I learned to prioritize and put unimportant events on the back burner. I place more emphasis on my health and became involved with yoga and Tai Chi.

Any other insights that you want to share?

I receive reading material on cancer from the Mayo Clinic, MD Anderson, and the Technion. People with a cancer diagnosis are living longer. Treatments such as immunotherapy and Velcade have helped to shrink tumors, as well as, in certain cases, provide remission. To a certain extent, cancer today is being looked at as a chronic disease rather than the dreaded ogre of yesteryear. SHARE's webinars have taught me that the protocols for treating cancer have advanced greatly in the last 15 years. I strongly recommend these webinars to my callers.