Male breast cancer survivor: Why I volunteer at MD Anderson
As I approach the fourth anniversary of my original male breast cancer diagnosis in March 2013, it occurs to me that the feelings which overwhelmed me at that time have not faded entirely.
Instead, they serve as a constant reminder that my life has a purpose. That purpose is to share my story so that other men with breast cancer can be diagnosed while the disease is still in its earliest stages — and therefore, more treatable.
That’s why I’ve committed myself to volunteering at MD Anderson and participating in several MD Anderson committees and councils that work to enrich the survivor experience.
Look for opportunities to do good
During my visits to MD Anderson, whether for treatment or committee meetings, I frequently observe volunteers interacting with patients and caregivers, offering support and asking how they can help. Many of these trained volunteers are survivors or caregivers themselves.
It’s impossible to walk through MD Anderson and not have an opportunity to help another person. It could be in the form of a gentle word or a soft touch. And since only 17 months have passed since my second diagnosis, I may even be the one who needs it.
But make no mistake: the opportunity always exists here to do good for others — you just have to be aware of your surroundings.
You’re not alone
Recently, I offered support to a woman whose husband has advancing Alzheimer's. I said that I was there for her and that she was not alone. She came back rather quickly with the comment, “But I am alone.”
My response, which I have uttered to myself on numerous occasions, was, “You may feel like you are alone, but the reality is you are not.”
I told her about myCancerConnection, MD Anderson’s one-on-one support program for patients and caregivers. This robust network is comprised of more than 2,200 survivor and caregiver volunteers who give tirelessly of their time and talents so that nobody has to face this journey alone.
All we volunteers have to do is reach out to those we see struggling or be receptive when someone reaches out to us. That’s it. But the payoff is huge.
Defining my legacy in a positive way
I share this with the hope that other cancer patients will continue to have confidence in their recovery journey. Because it is a journey, not a destination.
At MD Anderson, not only was I treated by the best surgical and oncological team ever assembled; they also addressed my emotional and spiritual needs.
And what I have learned is that cancer does not have to define us in a negative way. We can determine our legacy as we make our way through the surgeries, treatments, tests and medicines. One way we can do that is by helping others.
Today, I try to share the message of giving back as much as I can. Because what I have found is that when I am thinking of others, I have less time to think of me.