Breast Cancer Peer Support Volunteers
Volunteers in the Peer Support Program are a devoted group of people who provide support, comfort and practical information to those with cancer. Meet some of our volunteers, identified by first name or a nickname, who are answering your questions online.
Alybee was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 1999. After receiving a mastectomy at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, she had chemotherapy and reconstruction surgery at UCSF Medical Center. She became a peer support volunteer because she wanted to help others in this difficult journey by providing perspective from someone who has walked in their shoes. A peer support volunteer for nearly 10 years, Alybee says she's encouraged by the feeling that sharing her experience might help provide comfort and reassurance to someone who needs it.
When Carlene was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, she said she was devastated by the news. But the support of the team at UCSF, including doctors, nurses, social workers, a psychologist and peer supporters, helped relieve her fears during a very difficult experience. She feels lucky to be alive and healthy and wants to help others facing breast cancer. Carlene, who lives on the Peninsula in the San Francisco Bay Area, underwent two rounds of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and a mastectomy, and participated in a clinic trial to test the effects of regular MRI scans during chemotherapy. Being a volunteer has been a great experience that allows her to give back to a large "family" of survivors.
Karen turned to the Peer Support Program when she was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma in January 2011. During chemotherapy and radiation therapy at UCSF, she says the Peer Support Program was an extremely helpful part of her treatment. She became a peer support volunteer to give back to other women with breast cancer and to help them in ways others helped her.
In 1999, Kat Nat was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), the most common type of noninvasive breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy, mastectomy and reconstruction surgery at UCSF Medical Center. Kat Nat joined the Peer Support Program because UCSF Medical Center helped her and her family overcome some serious illnesses and she wanted to give back by volunteering. She enjoys offering her support to other women with breast cancer and letting them know that they are not alone.
In 2004, Kathy was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), the most common type of noninvasive breast cancer, in her left breast. She had a lumpectomy and received 38 weeks of radiation treatment at UCSF Medical Center. In 2009, Kathy started a breast cancer peer support group to help low-income Asian Americans and African Americans with breast cancer through San Francisco State University (SFSU). She wanted to do more, and became a UCSF peer support volunteer.
Mary Ann was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) — the most common type of noninvasive breast cancer — in 2004. She participated in several clinical trials and had a mastectomy as well as tram flap reconstruction surgery at UCSF. Mary Ann says she was lucky to have a lot of support while going through treatment and she joined the Peer Support Program because she wanted to help people who may not have the same level of support. She enjoys talking with other women and sharing what she knows about the disease and treatment.
Miri says the hardest part of her breast cancer diagnosis was feeling alone and not knowing anyone else who had experienced what she was going through. Miri had just turned 30 when her midwife found a lump in her breast. She underwent surgery, radiation and chemotherapy and got treatment at UCSF and the University of Michigan. She loves giving support to other women and hopefully helping a little in some way.
Rita is a peer support volunteer for UCSF's Online Peer Support Program. In 2006, she was diagnosed with Stage IIA, triple-negative breast cancer — a relatively rare type of breast cancer. She had surgery and radiation therapy at UCSF Medical Center and chemotherapy at a private practice office. Her daughter was 11 years old when Rita was diagnosed. She decided to become a peer support volunteer in order to share her experiences with other women.
In 1998, Sarah M. was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), stage I breast cancer in one of her breasts. Sarah participated in a clinical trial at UCSF's Comprehensive Cancer Center, where she had a radical bilateral mastectomy. Sarah remembers how alone and isolated she felt when she first received her diagnosis. A peer support volunteer for 10 years, Sarah says she feels truly fulfilled by volunteering her time to help others.
Verrill is a peer support volunteer for UCSF's Online Peer Support Program. In 2004, she was diagnosed with invasive lobular cancer in her right breast. She had a lumpectomy at California Pacific Medical Center, and received radiation and hormone therapy under care of a radiologist and oncologist at UCSF Medical Center. She became a peer support volunteer to help other cancer patients understand their treatment options and says she enjoys knowing that she might be able to help someone by answering their questions about breast cancer.