Five years ago when I was unexpectedly diagnosed with breast cancer, with no family history, I thought that my life was over, both physically and mentally. I cried for days on end until a good friend told me about ABCD. Scared to make the call to them, and not knowing another sole who had the misfortune of having this diagnosis, I felt isolated and all alone. I got up the courage to call ABCD and their receptiveness and caring was a God sent!!!! They, immediately assigned me a mentor who lived nearby, and I had the pleasure of meeting a caring person that had experienced the exact same diagnosis and went through the same fears and apprehensions that I was experiencing gave me hope and enlightenment.
If it wasn't for ABCD's mentors and ongoing programs, I cannot even imagine what would have become of my mental and physical health prognosis.
I am a 5 year survivor, with the help of a great surgeon, oncologist and the members of ABCD. I wanted to give back what I had graciously received from them, so I took the time to take their mentoring course, and I am now awaiting another anxious and confused patient who, was given the same diagnosis of the BIG "C", breast cancer. I hope and pray that I can be as proactive as a mentor, as the person that guided me through my dark days.
GOD BLESS "ABCD'', AND ALL THE FABULOUS PEOPLE THAT ARE AFFILIATED WITH THIS LIFE SAVING ORGANIZATION...
No one ever forgets the moment they first heard they have cancer. I remember sitting in a hospital gown on a hard metal table in the ultrasound room and hearing these words. I was young, never been really sick, and didn’t know anyone who had cancer, didn’t know what an oncologist or breast surgeon was. The breast cancer survivors at the other end of the toll-free phone call at ABCD, After Breast Cancer Diagnosis, are there to help, from the moment of diagnosis throughout the cancer treatment journey, then beyond into survivorhood, so no one faces breast cancer alone.
The emotionaI impact hits like a truck. Me? Shock, disbelief, scared – will I die, will this be my last Christmas? Fear of the unknown. What will the treatments be like? How sick will they make me? Guilt – what did I do to cause this? Fear - Will I make it? Does anybody make it? Practical questions - How do I tell my husband? My kids? Do I even want to tell my family yet? Will I still be able to do my job? I have to find an oncologist and surgeon right away – how? I’ll likely need months of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation? How will I pay for it? These are some of the feelings, and practical questions, the ABCD mentors help callers with every day.
I felt so scared and alone. Mostly overwhelmed. By all the new terms and the many, many treatment decisions I needed to make, and make quickly. Decisions I’d have to live with for the rest of my life – do I remove a breast? One or two? Which is worse, more surgery or more radiation? If I do take off a breast, should I get reconstruction? If yes, what kind – what is each REALLY like? Which looks better, feels better, is the shortest surgery, fastest recovery, has least long-term side effects? What will I feel like if I don’t get reconstruction? Will my husband still love me when I’m no longer ‘whole’? Will I ever feel normal again? The trained breast cancer survivors at ABCD help patients every day with answers to questions like this – from the large resource database at their fingertips, their personal wisdom from having been in those shoes, the experiences of over 350 other mentors from across the country from all walks of breast cancer type/treatment/age/etc, and, mostly, a listening ear.
I wished I had heard of ABCD when I was diagnosed 4 years ago to help me through that emotionally hard time and to help me come up with questions to ask my doctors so I’d have all the info I needed to make the right decisions. I learned about them months later, near the end of my treatment when I joined a support group and heard other women talking about how calling and talking to someone who had been in their shoes was the only way they got through their many crisis points. There were multiple times throughout the journey when I wished I had had someone to talk to – like the night before my first chemo – step by step, can someone walk me through what it’s going to be like. What’s it feel like when your hair falls out? When will it grow back? What am I going to feel like? Will I be able to …(get out of bed? go out with friends? go on our planned vacation? …)
ABCD, After Breast Cancer Diagnosis, is there, and has been for 15 years, a toll-free phone call away. They have a top reputation by many doctors, many of whom routinely ask each of their newly diagnosed patients if they’d like an ABCD mentor. ABCD provides immediate, customized one-on-one peer support to anyone affected by breast cancer.
After hearing how much the ABCD mentor support helped my friends, I subsequently became both an ABCD helpline and diagnosis-specific match mentor. Now, every day, I experience the “power of one-to-one”. With nearly every phone call, I’m blessed to walk side by side someone with breast cancer, and be rewarded with the satisfaction of knowing I’m making an immediate difference in people’s lives. Phone calls that start in tears and fright, end with sighs of relief, effusive thank you’s, and often even laughter.
ABCD, After Breast Cancer Diagnosis, daily providing trained and professionally supported peer support that is just as important to a successful breast cancer journey as top medical care. ABCD – empowering women with breast cancer through “the power of one-to-one”. ABCD –my favorite great non-profit.
ABCD picked up some of the pieces left when Y-ME closed it's doors last year. Since then, the organization has, with emphasis on fiscal viability, extended their regional reach nationwide. The goal is to match callers with mentors who have had the same or similar diagnosis who will support them through their journey. In addition, ABCD offers personalized resources for each caller who requests information thanks to a support staff of researchers who find answers and resources expressly for the individual. The helpline and mentor program are staffed with many survivors, including a large contingent of ex--Y-ME volunteers, ready to lend an ear to each caller. There is nothing like knowing you have made a difference for a caller (survivor, family member, friend), and many times those who call in say they are so happy to have spoken with someone who understands. The combination of these personalized services are unique to the breast cancer support community.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer over seven years ago, my friend suggested I contact ABCD for some support. I'm glad I did. They matched me with a mentor and sent me some literature. The staff were so caring and eased the feelings I was going through. After my five year of being a survivor I wanted to give back. So I contacted ABCD and went through the mentor training. Attended several workshops, Date With A Plate a couple of times and various other events and the DETAIL that goes into each training session, workshops, events, etc... is unbelievable! Every time I visit ABCDs office I get this fuzzy warm feeling with the staff. This organization truly cares for the participants as well as the volunteers. There hasn't been a time I didn't hear how grateful they are to work with such wonderful volunteers and couldn't do this mission without us. How cool is that?!
I was a staff member and volunteer with Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization for 32 years when Y-ME declared bankruptcy July 2012. Out of this devasting event, ABCD reached out to our peer counselors and embraced us as family. They expanded all of their services, retrained, educated, absorbed the expense of obtaining much of Y-ME valuable resources and ran with it. ABCD has a Helpline and Mentor Matching program that is outstanding. They have a caring and dedicated staff. They have spent countless hours and dollars to make ABCD a national organization that can help patients, survivors, caregivers, spouses, loved ones, friends etc. who are all touched by breast cancer. They are currently in the process of expanding their hours to be more immediately available to callers. This is an organization that has changed the face of breast cancer and the journey.
As a mentor and Helpline volunteer for ABCD, I hear the gratitude and relief in the voices of the women to whom I speak. They are so appreciative and relieved to speak to someone who "gets it" , someone who has been in their place and knows what it feels like to be diagnosed with breast cancer.
All of the volunteers are trained, caring people who want to be there for someone else who is now going through a difficult , and often lonely, experience. Women call filled with anxiety of the unknown, and after speaking to a volunteer, can take a deep breath for the first time since diagnosis.
Besides being a comforting presence, the volunteers on the helpline can also offer information, resources, or a match with a mentor who is paired as closely as possible to the caller from a large database of women or men who have had almost every possible diagnosis or treatment. The callers can then speak to someone who has had the same tests, treatments, surgeries, or is even the same religion or marital status if that is important.
In an impersonal world, where people are diagnosed with cancer and sent home with their heads spinning, new vocabulary words, difficult choices, ABCD steps in to explain, comfort, listen, and , most importantly, to show that being diagnosed with breast cancer does not mean she or he will die.
After my own breast cancer diagnosis, I felt alone. I had good, caring doctors, loving friends and family, but no one had been in my shoes. At times, I felt alone and isolated. I cried myself to sleep, had tearful moments at work, found it hard to concentrate.
A few years after my treatment, I learned about and became a peer counselor for a national breast cancer hotline. I felt good that I could use my experience to help others better understand and cope with the disease. Sadly, that organization closed its doors in 2012. I led a group of volunteers from that organization in a search for a new home for our collective services. We researched many fine organizations around the country that do wonderful work. We chose to volunteer our services with ABCD: After Breast Cancer Diagnosis because we shared the singular focus and passion of easing the confusion and pain for breast cancer patients, survivors, their family members and friends with, as ABCD puts it, "the power of one to one". ABCD welcomed us and as it turns out, they were expanding their Helpline services, so we were in the right place at the right time.
ABCD Match and Helpline Mentors receive training from a caring staff as well as professionals: physicians, attorneys and psychologists who generously give their time to assure that each and every caller to the Helpline and every person who requests a match has a quality experience. Volunteers are attentively supported during their training, Helpline service, match relationships and continuing education opportunities that also provide a chance for mentors to socialize.
I am proud to support patients and survivors who want help with finding reliable sources of information, suggestions for coping strategies and just someone to listen, with ABCD style, depth and quality. All ABCD services are FREE.
Recently, I answered a Helpline call and I heard a shaky, soft voice say, "Hello." I asked how I could help her, and she didn't know where to begin. I asked her if she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and she said, "Yes." I asked her to tell me about her experience, and she tearfully described the set of events that brought her to our call. As I listened, she began to ask if this and that were normal. I reassured, empathized and offered coping suggestions. Together, we organized her thoughts, outlined her next steps and then we requested a mentor so that she could have regular contact with someone who has been where she is now, someone just like her. By the end of our conversation, her voice sounded stronger, she had direction and she learned from someone who had been there that she could DO THIS!
ABCD matches breast cancer patients, caregivers, spouses, or other loved ones with very carefully selected mentors. The match process takes into account many variables such as age at diagnosis, exact diagnosis and treatment, number of children, faith and many more. ABCD's group of mentors is culturally diverse, with some who speak Spanish, French and other languages, as well as mentors of several ethnicities. The organization also strives to meet the breast cancer support needs of the underserved.
For me, to be able to support breast cancer patients who suddenly find themselves in the gripping fear of the unknown at the time of a breast cancer diagnosis is a passion; one I find especially rewarding along the continuum of ABCD services from Helpline call to Mentor Match through survivorship. ABCD's motto is "the power of one-to-one". There is nothing quite like it.
ABCD was there for me when I was diagnosed with breast cancer almost 10 years ago. I found it great to be able to send my assigned mentor an email in the middle of the night - that seemed to be the time when all my questions popped up and I couldn't sleep! After knowing what to anticipate from my mentor, it was easier moving forward. I truly valued my mentoring experience and following my treatment, I, too, went through the mentor training experience. I wanted to be able to give back and help others going through the breast cancer diagnosis. "One day at a time, one step at a time" is my mantra. It can be such an overwhelming moment when you hear those words "you have breast cancer" but ABCD definitely helped me see my way through.
I have been involved with ABCD as a volunteer for nearly nine years, and am so proud to be involved with an organization that understands a breast cancer diagnosis is about more than just the medicine. The concept of one-to-one support is so unique! Participants are matched to a mentor who has had similar experiences and can really understand the fear, pain, uncertainty, etc. that is part of a breast cancer diagnosis. And ABCD not only provides support to those who have been diagnosed, but also offers mentoring to the family and friends of the participants to help them through the journey. ABCD is an amazing organization!
I am a 14-year Breast Cancer survivor and was introduced to ABCD in the early years! My Breast Health Coordinator suggested that because I was relatively young at the time of diagnosis, I might want to consider helping other younger women with my story of hope. When she suggested that she would be giving me Melodie Wilson's phone number, I recall feeling rather star-struck, having watched her over her career as a TV-Broadcast Journalist. I humbly took the number and after a few days of practicing what I would say, I called. My life was forever changed by that one phone call. I became an ABCD Mentor and later a Board Member, and now a happy volun-cheerleader!! ABCD is a small organization with all the might of a giant non-profit. It keeps true to its primary purpose - to help those affected by Breast Cancer. They are an organization of smart, innovative, passionate, dedicated, and funny people and our healthcare community and our community at large would not be the same without them. Let me wrap things up with this - my surgeon, my oncologist, and all my healthcare practitioners set out to do ONE thing...save my life, for the rest of my life! They did it with care, they did it with compassion, and they stayed laser-focused on that goal. It wasn't until I started reading some books and talking to other women (before ABCD was born) and learned for example that beyond my head-hair, my eyebrows and eyelashes would likely fall out, and they did. I wouldn't have thought to buy and use a bra that hooked in the front, because it was going to be a while before I could stretch to reach my bra that hooked in the back. These aren't the kinds of a thing that the medical community is built to delve into...and that’s o.k., but gosh golly I'm so grateful for those kinds of nuggets. Now ABCD isn't all about eyebrows and bras, no! A Mentor is able to provide emotional support and share what is to be expected in that regard as well. That is quite invaluable, because your healthcare practitioners are saving your life and your family is filling in the gaps and making your life work while you're doing what you need to do, coping as they can, and even your BFF can't relate to what you're experiencing (unless she/he is a survivor too), so there is something so useful and comforting in talking to practically a complete stranger (at first) about what's going on and being able to ask those questions you can't ask anyone else! Great organization...wouldn't be me without them!