Breast Cancer Update

American Cancer Society Breast Cancer Update
December 2009

Getting Well: Stories of Hope from People Living with Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Survivor Finds Strength and Hope in American Cancer Society Program

When Cathy Hirsch was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 43, she was worried about going through chemo and whether she would be able to care for her 2 children, then 8 and 10, and keep up the demands of her job. Now, more than 6 years later, she's cancer-free and working full time to give back to the American Cancer Society program she credits with giving her the "gift of hope."

In 2003, Hirsch, a Baltimore, Maryland-based attorney and former journalist, was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. She had a bilateral mastectomy, chemotherapy, and breast reconstruction.

When she first got her diagnosis, she says she felt alone. She knew 2 other women who had had breast cancer, but she says "their situations were so different from mine - one found her cancer early, before any treatment other than surgery was needed, and the other had not found her cancer until it was very advanced. I didn't really feel like they would understand what I was going through."

A nurse told her about the American Cancer Society Reach To Recovery® program , which matches specially trained breast cancer survivors with newly diagnosed breast cancer patients to provide emotional support and guidance, so patients can focus on getting well. Whether in person or over the phone, volunteers offer an opportunity for patients to talk about fears and concerns, and ask questions of someone who has been through breast cancer treatment before.

"Talking to an American Cancer Society Reach To Recovery volunteer made such a difference. She and I had really similar backgrounds. She had 2 kids, too, and they were around the same age as mine when she went through treatment. She showed me that cancer didn't have to take over my life. She was a runner, and she still ran while undergoing chemotherapy," Hirsch says.

"That contact was so important to me. I can’t even describe how it changed my attitude. It made me want to give back," Hirsch recalls.

In 2007, Hirsch decided to devote all of her time to helping cancer patients. She left her job with an appellate court in Maryland and founded a nonprofit foundation that works with the American Cancer Society to bring Reach To Recovery services to breast cancer patients in the Baltimore area.

Through her work with the American Cancer Society, Hirsch has met countless women who are going through experiences similar to hers.

"Volunteering is like offering a gift of hope," says Hirsch. "I try to share the message that no matter what stage, breast cancer is not a death sentence, and that life can go on while going through treatment."

Are you a breast cancer survivor who wants to make a difference in the lives of others affected by breast cancer? Call us toll free at 1-800-227-2345 or call your local American Cancer Society office to learn about becoming a Reach To Recovery volunteer.

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