Peer Support

I hadn’t set out to be the “go-to-girl” for all things breast cancer, but when you’re faced with a challenge and come out on the other side fairing pretty well, I think people trust you. Maybe they’re just looking for positive support wherever they can, when they find themselves in a similarly difficult spot. It starts with a phone call, a text, or a Facebook private message and some variation of “Hi Eve…this is so and so, or I got your number from so and so. My friend (or I) was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Can I give her your number? Do you mind talking to her?”  How can I say no to that?

In addition to the local network of women who have reached out to me, I’m also part of a Sharsheret’s peer support network, which connects women who are newly diagnosed or at high risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer with others who share similar diagnoses. Many women, who are diagnosed with breast and/or ovarian cancer, find it helpful to speak with cancer survivors to hear about their experiences. I suppose that’s me, a relatively young woman with firsthand experience as a breast cancer survivor.

To paraphrase Groucho Marx, I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept people like me as a member. Unfortunately though, I cannot hand in my resignation. I’m part of a club of warriors, who have been affected by breast cancer, and I’ve resigned myself to making the best of it and helping others when possible. Sometimes it’s been a phone call or fielding questions via e-mail. Other times, it’s a meeting at a local gastropub to listen to a fellow survivor vent about her frustrations and worry for her young children, as she’s recently been diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. I’m no therapist, but it seems to me that sometimes people just need an empathetic ear from a person with whom they feel a connection. Breast cancer survivors share a connection, and I’ve come to learn that in some unconscious way by helping others, I’m helping myself to heal and spin something positive out of something that was negative. Peer support, much like volunteerism, is a win-win…help others, help yourself. Providing support to others is inevitability a necessity for me.

Next month, I’ll be providing bike marshaling support on the Young Survival Coalition’s inaugural Tour de Pink South, 3 day, 200 mile charity cycling event, which raises funds to ensure that no young woman faces breast cancer alone. I recently learned that 30% of the Tour de Pink participants, on average, are breast cancer survivors. I’m looking forward to encouraging and supporting these survivors in a way that is positive and liberating. I wholeheartedly believe that nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride and in the famous words of Albert Einstein, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”



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