Melissa, a volunteer for the
Survivors Helping Survivors
I recently crossed over a wondrous milestone: I have now known my husband for more years than I have not known him. It still feels like yesterday. We have two lovely daughters and are very active in our church community. I am a social science researcher focusing on exploring and replicating programs to improve the criminal justice system response to people with mental illnesses. I absolutely love my job. I am an avid reader and LOVE riding roller coasters (which has come in handy!).
I was diagnosed with breast cancer on my 41st birthday. I had a small tumor and no node involvement. My treatment involved lumpectomy, radiation and Tamoxifen therapy.
What helped me cope through my survivor journey the most was that I was completely cloaked in the comfort and support of family and friends. I have also participated in yoga classes on and off for years, which have helped tremendously in achieving some peace.
Being a breast cancer survivor has taught me that life is not a dress rehearsal. I have started exercising and running. I just completed a leg of a duathalon with my sister-in-law and ran faster than I ever thought I could. I am considering carefully how I will choose to spend my years after my daughters go off to college. If I can get through breast cancer, I really can do anything. “Anything” has yet to be determined!
I volunteer because it is the best way I could find to turn a “bad” experience into something “good.” That is, helping other woman who are in a similar situation.
One piece of advice I would give to a newly diagnosed woman would be to reach out to a breast cancer survivor volunteer! It can be so overwhelming to manage one’s own fears and questions in addition to the concerns of close family and friends. A knowledgeable volunteer can focus you on your experience of the diagnosis and help support you through decision-making and navigation of complex feelings that arise after such a shock. I advise women that surviving breast cancer can be just like a ride on a roller coaster – there will be very low lows, but also some highs. I also counsel and support women to trust their instincts when making decisions.