TALLAHASSEE – More 290,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. It means making big decisions about treatment plans and so many other things. That’s why emotional support is another important part of getting better.
A breast cancer diagnosis doesn’t just affect the person with the disease; it also changes their family and friends.
While their support is necessary, sometimes a patient needs a different kind of shoulder to lean on— someone who’s been there and survived.
That’s what the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery program is all about.
Jackie Batchelor was diagnosed two years ago with stage zero breast cancer.
“There’s no cancer history in my family whatsoever and we’re all girls so I thought they got it wrong,” Jackie says.
At 47-years-old, Jackie chose to have a bilateral mastectomy.
“I didn’t want to have that worry in the back of my head every year to be screened again: oh my god…did it come back.”
During that time, her surgeon asked if she wanted to talk to someone.
“I said absolutely. I think I need that because it’s different…your family’s there…they love you, they cry with you and I needed something more.”
That ‘something more’ turned out to be Thersha Cowley and Reach to Recovery.
Breast cancer survivor Thersha Cowley says, “We are there to provide emotional and practical support to women who’ve been diagnosed or are living with cancer.”
The reason Thersha and others volunteer with Reach to Recovery, is that they know about breast cancer first-hand.
“This year will be my ten year anniversary,” Thersha says.
The first time Thersha called, Jackie says it felt like they’d known each other for years.
“She gave me that support. Things I didn’t even think about, questions I didn’t even… I didn’t even know. She was helping me get to the other side to recover,” Jackie says.
For Jackie and Thersha, what started out as a shoulder to lean on, quickly turned into a friend to laugh with.
“You have a connection with every patient in that: I know how you feel, I know your fears. I understand the uncertainty. When you meet someone like Jackie, it goes beyond that. It is so exciting that we can do these things together,” Thersha says.
That now includes Reach to Recovery.
A 2-year survivor, Jackie just finished her training to become a volunteer.
“Knowing what Thersha did for me, the way she is, the resources she provided to me. I knew I had to give back,” Jackie says.
Now they both are. Showing other women who are going through breast cancer that they can come out on the other side as a smiling survivor.
To become a Reach to Recovery volunteer, a person must be one year out from their treatments, that way they can be emotionally ready to support others. They also have to go through training and a lengthy interview process.
If you would like to be connected to a Reach to Recovery volunteer, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345.