This is part of our "Meet a Volunteer" series, highlighting the incredible ovarian and breast cancer survivors and thrivers who volunteer with SHARE to support other women facing these diseases. If you're interested in becoming a volunteer yourself, click here!
Why did you decide to be a SHARE Breast Cancer Helpline peer volunteer, and what do like most about it?
I traveled twice with this disease and wasn’t aware that there were SHARE breast cancer support groups. I investigated other groups, but they had me dead or dying. When I discovered SHARE, I decided to give back by volunteering. I like being there for people. Most of the time, women just want to talk or vent, or cry. I let them. I listen. When they want, I help them map out a plan to navigate through their journey.
When were you diagnosed and what was your diagnosis?
I was initially diagnosed in 2003 with Stage 0 (DCIS). I had a mastectomy and tram flap reconstruction on the right side. I was diagnosed with a new primary Micropapillary Invasive Carcinoma in 2012. I had a mastectomy and implant reconstruction. I completed the full 5-year course of Letrozole.
Where are you now, as far as your breast cancer “journey?”
As of today I am NED: No Evidence of Disease.
In addition to volunteering for SHARE, what else do you do? What do you (or did you) do for work?
I am semi-retired and live at the beach in Delaware. I work three days a week at a law firm in New York. I am a technical trainer, template developer and coach.
What do you do for fun?
I am a watercolor artist. I have had two of my paintings in shows and actually sold one of them. In addition, I quilt and knit (not at the same time!).
What did you learn about yourself while going through your breast cancer experience?
I learned that I am stronger than I thought. I thought I was always fearless, but I actually got to learn what true fear was. I now take better care of myself. I watch my weight, exercise, and meditate more. Bob Marley had it right: you never know how strong you are until strong is all you can be. I no longer take things too seriously. I have cleared my life of other people’s drama. I am more mindful and practice self-care.
What priorities did you have before and after?
Prior to breast cancer, I worried about everything. I felt I had to fix everything and everyone. I didn’t take care of myself. After breast cancer, through lots of therapy, I have become peacefully indifferent to most dramas. I am more mindful and more selective of what I opt to commit to. I practice self-care. I have better learned to identify who owns which problem. I have cleared my life as much as I can of negative and toxic people.
Any other insights that you want to share?
Laugh a great deal. Spend quality time with the ones you love. DO NOT LIVE IN THE PAST: your old normal is gone. It no longer exists. Learn, move on, learn to adapt. GIVE UP ON FEAR: it’s a time-robber, and you never get that time back. Self-care is not selfish; it is a necessity.