Survivors, Mentors and the Next Generation
The breast cancer journey is a challenge for everyone who goes through it. Most have great support systems, but consider those who have to go through the journey alone. DBCC’s Peer Mentor program ensures that no one in Delaware ever has to.
Patti Key, DBCC Board Member and CEO of Harrington Raceway and Casino, knows the value of having people to turn to who are knowledgeable and experienced with breast cancer. Her mother, Barbara Truitt, was one of her main sources of support. Truitt was diagnosed with breast cancer just six months before Key was diagnosed. “It took away a lot of the fear,” Key says. “I knew basically what to expect because of what my mother had been through.”
Key also turned to DBCC for help while she was undergoing treatment, and she found it in her friend Susan DiMondi, who, at the time, was a DBCC staff member and peer mentor. “I had wonderful support from my mother and Susan as well as the staff of DBCC’s Lewes office,” Key says. “DBCC staff and volunteers are there for you as much as you want them to be. Mentors become your family. When you need that support, there can always be a mentor by your side.”
Some 800 women have been mentored since DBCC began the Peer Mentor Program in 2005. Mentors are breast cancer survivors who have been through an intensive, four-hour training program in which they learn the best ways to provide emotional support. DBCC currently has more than 180 trained mentors ranging in age from 25 to 85.
When someone calls DBCC requesting a mentor, the program coordinator has a conversation with the newly diagnosed person and matches her with a mentor according to age, life situation, diagnosis and treatment, says Cathy Holloway, DBCC program director of Education and Survivorship.
Barbara Nolan and her mentor were so well matched that they became lasting friends, Nolan says. “She was always there for me, even when I called hysterical in the middle of the night. We talked not only about breast cancer but also about life in general. She was a great source of support during my radiation treatments.”
Her experience with being mentored led Nolan to volunteer as a Peer Mentor. “I know how important it is to be able to connect with someone who has walked the walk and talked the talk.”
Clair Field was not aware of DBCC and the mentor program when she was going through her cancer treatment, but she knows it would have helped her. That’s why she volunteered to be a Peer Mentor to others. She has mentored six women over the past two years.
“I really enjoy connecting with people in similar situations,” Field says. “It’s rewarding and inspiring as well as a constant reminder that there’s no one-size-fits-all in the cancer journey, but we are all united in the quest for survival and conquering breast cancer.”
DBCC Vision Statement
To create a community where every person diagnosed with breast cancer becomes a survivor, and fear and doubt are replaced with knowledge and hope.
“The Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, a 501c(3) non-profit agency created in 1991 by a small group of volunteers, remains the only organization in the state focused solely on breast health issues as they affect the women and men in our local communities. Our full-time and part-time staff and hundreds of volunteers from Delaware, Southeastern Pennsylvania and Maryland work to fulfill DBCC’s mission: to empower our community by raising awareness of breast health issues through outreach, education and support to facilitate early detection and treatment of breast cancer.”