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Breast Cancer Survivor Volunteer – Melissa (Missy)

I've learned that balance in your life is very important so I retired early to help care for my elderly parents and to play with my grandchildren. Three years ago my husband and I were in a terrible accident, we were hit by a drunk driver celebrating his 21st birthday. What a senseless loss for all of us as both my husband and the other driver died in the accident. My children, grandchildren, family and friends rallied around me as I recovered physically and started the process of healing emotionally. I am blessed to have four sisters and one brother, just as they responded during my diagnosis and treatment they once again were there for me as I tried to put some order back into my life. One of the first things I started doing again was volunteering in breast imaging at Johns Hopkins. By giving of myself to others to help them heal, I have helped in my own healing process.

I was 49 years old when diagnosed with DCIS. I initially had a lumpectomy but did not have clean margins. My choice at that point was a much larger lumpectomy and then radiation or a mastectomy with no further treatment necessary. Remember this was in 1998 when research suggested better long term survival rates with mastectomy. I  decided to have a mastectomy with immediate TRAM reconstruction. I also needed an implant to achieve good cosmetic results. I did not need further treatment.

What helped me cope through my survivor journey the most was my husband’s devoted love and care along with children, family, friends and faith.

Being a breast cancer survivor has taught me not to let my medical history define who I am. I am me first – and a woman with medical experiences  on the list of things I have experienced in my life.

I volunteer because  I guess I am a little needy because I always come away from a day supporting women having biopsies, or pre surgical procedures a little stronger. Sharing thoughts  and experiences with other women gives me strength, I try to give some of that strength back to the women I meet as a volunteer in the community and in Breast Imaging. Women have an amazing gift of bonding very quickly, I hope that by showing empathy, sharing stories, allowing them to hug, cry and laugh we all feel a little better. 

One piece of advice I would give to a newly diagnosed woman would be to give yourself time – time to cry, time to be angry, time to love, time to heal. Listen to yourself  and what it is that gives you strength.


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