Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer, 12 survivor
Co-founder, Cancer Survivors Circle of Strength,
After my diagnosis 12 years ago, my initial response was, “well let’s go!” I just wanted to start my treatment and get well. I had no idea that stage IV was the final stage. That there would be days where I just wanted to give up, days where I felt hopeless and days where my best friend kept added hope to my life. I didn’t know that it would take me years to feel good again, and put on my big girl panties and make my life count for something.
Cancer has made me a kinder and gentler person. I have a different understanding of what is important. Family is important, serving God and others is important, patience is important, listening is important. And passion is important! If I could go back and tell my pre-cancer self just one thing, it would be you are stronger than you even know. Whatever life throws at you, make it count, give it purpose.
About 4 years into this crazy thing we call a cancer journey, I sat back and decided that there had to be a way to use this journey for the good. My caregiver and I had put together a notebook to help us stay organized. I started Open Wings of H.O.P.E. (Healing Optimism and Personal Empowerment) to help newly diagnosed patients to become active patients. We have a binder with tabs and worksheets that help the newly diagnosed patient document their journey, stay organized and feel in control again. This endeavor lead me to another passion of volunteerism. Thus, I became a co-founder of Cancer Survivors Circle of Strength.
Six years into my journey, I was going through chemo again. Except this time, I went into an allergic shock from the chemo. Within seconds my body started shutting down and I was scared to death that the drug that was supposed to keep me alive was killing me. I was struggling to breath and from my neck down I felt like I was on fire from the inside out. I am forever grateful to the friend that was there to get help and help keep me calm.
I said to myself, “make it count, give it purpose.” Now Circle of Strength is adding the “Survivor Connection Network”, a peer support program. I am so excited about this new program that will connect trained volunteer peers with newly diagnosed patients and their caregivers. We will help guide new patients and their caregivers through the cancer journey, empower them through their own discoveries and be a friendly voice on the other end of a phone just to listen. Working on this program has the brightest moment of my 2nd Act.
I see Cancer Survivors Circle of Strength and the impact we will have on the local community as growing into a statewide and national organization.
If I can tell you anything about your 2nd Act it is this: it may not always look exactly like you think it will, it may not always be your first attempt. But you are stronger than you know and you have a purpose!