When I was just 9 years old, my mom introduced me to volunteering at the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon event in Duluth, MN. I had to run back and forth with the donation cards. I remember feeling so important. I LOVED IT! I also volunteered with my mom at church bazaars and I had the opportunity to participate in a Fashion Show where I roller skated down the runway in my Strawberry Shortcake outfit when I was about 10 years old.
Throughout the years, volunteering for women and children became my focus: becoming a wish granter for the Make-A-Wish Foundation; volunteering at Gillette Specialty Healthcare to assist the children with nightly activities; and JDRF events. However, the most rewarding volunteer experience I’ve had is most recently as a Firefly Sisterhood Guide.
My own breast cancer experience was very extensive and different from most people, so I didn’t think that I would get a match. It took a year before I received the call from Jenny Cook that a woman needed my help. It has been very rewarding assisting my Firefly Sister with questions and concerns during the initial stages of her breast cancer experience. There are things that I had forgotten about that actually brought back deep emotions that I hadn’t dealt with, as I just finished my last surgery (the 13th surgery!) , three and a half years since my diagnosis.
I also created a roadmap in the event my Firefly Sister had to go through all of the stages of breast cancer treatment. It was very therapeutic for me and I found myself not remembering half the resources that I was given when I hit “survivorship.” It made me realize the “blur” and “out of body” experience that I felt and it made me more aware of what my Firefly Sister was going through and how to better assist her with her needs. As I continue to build upon this relationship, I feel more passionate about helping others going through their breast cancer experience.
Written by Tanya, a breast cancer survivor and Firefly Guide. “My mom and I have established a special bond in the last 20 plus years. When she faced breast cancer 12 years ago, I was faced with the fact that she may no longer be in my life and it was devastating. When she pulled through and went into remission, we faced another challenge, my own. It’s been 3 ½ years since I was diagnosed with Stage 1A Invasive Carcinoma and Non-Invasive Carcinoma/ Breast Cancer and without the strength and hope that my mom provided me during my experience, I would not be where I am today. In my heart, I knew the possibilities were high with both my mom and my dad’s mom/grandmother having breast cancer, but I was still in shock, but I took each surgery one at a time and had a great support system. However, while all of my friends were going on with their lives, I feel as though I’ve spent the last 3 ½ years in a fog consisting of cancer removal, then reconstruction, infection removal and starting all over again. All in all, I had 13 surgeries. Now that I’ve completed my surgeries and move forward with taking a hormone blocking cancer drug, it’s time to Thrive to find my purpose in helping other young women going through breast cancer.”