Cathy is a 51-year-old breast cancer survivor from Towson, Maryland.
Tell us about yourself.
I am a wife and the mother of two teenage girls. My breast cancer experience led to my current career: I am the president of a non-profit foundation – Within Reach – which develops and operates support programs for cancer patients. I am also the Maryland state trainer for the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery program, which provides one-on-one peer support for breast cancer patients. I serve on the International Advisory Council to Reach to Recovery International, and I am a stakeholder on an ACS research grant review committee. I am an attorney and worked for an appellate court before I started Within Reach. Before that, I worked as a broadcast journalist.
When were you diagnosed?
May 2003, at age 43
How has cancer changed your outlook on life?
Fighting breast cancer is physically and emotionally draining. I was amazed by the support I received while I was recovering from surgery and going through chemotherapy. Friends, family, and coworkers pitched in by accompanying me to appointments, providing meals to my family, and caring for my daughters. The medical professionals I encountered were unfailingly kind and helpful. At the request of my breast surgeon, an ACS Reach to Recovery volunteer called me and provided me with tremendous hope simply by listening to my concerns and serving as an example of survivorship. Fighting breast cancer made me more sensitive to the struggles that other people were facing, and the many kindnesses I received during my own battle inspired me to “pay it forward.” As soon as I was able, I signed up to become a Reach to Recovery volunteer, and shortly thereafter I founded Within Reach.
What words of encouragement would you share with others with cancer?
I want new patients to know that, thanks to advances in treatment, breast cancer is no longer a death sentence. The great majority of breast cancer patients not only survive but thrive. While treatment for cancer is a frightening prospect, most women find that it is not as bad as they expected, and with a few minor adjustments they are able to live their normal lives while undergoing treatment.
Support this non-profit in honor of Cathy:
American Cancer Society Reach to Recovery
Please support those battling breast cancer by donating.