Breast cancer survivors help new patients cope
McKenzie Jackson | 6/5/2009, 2:09 a.m.
Dorothy Dottie Carter has survived breast cancer not once, but twice.
So on National Cancer Survivors Day on June 7, when survivors of breast, brain, prostate and other cancers from across the globe unite in a symbolic event to show the world that there is life after a cancer diagnosis, she will be right at home.
Carter, an Avondale Estates resident, was diagnosed with breast cancer in her right breast in 1994 and was afflicted in her left breast in 1998.
During her four-year battle with the disease, Carter, 57, lost her hair, underwent six weeks of radiation treatment, 12 months of chemotherapy, had reconstructive surgery, a stem cell transplant and two mastectomies.
An administrative secretary at DeKalb Medicals Cancer Center, Carter said she now gives back by being a shoulder to lean on for women recently diagnosed with breast cancer and showing them that there is life after a diagnosis.
Your doctors can answer questions, but as far as how are you going to feel with reconstruction, how are you going to feel as to losing your hair, how are people going to react to you, she said, survivors can answer those questions.
National Cancer Survivors Day allows communities to honor cancer survivors for their strength and courage as well as recognize the contributions of families, friends and healthcare providers. The day, which has been in existence for 22 years, is observed on the first Sunday in June with health fairs, dances, parades, art exhibits, picnics and ceremonies.
In cancer support groups across Atlanta, survivors will reflect on their bout with the disease, how they overcame it and their assistance to newly diagnosed patients.
Carter remembers how traumatic her diagnosis was.
I went to work to take my mind off the disease, she said. It helped me rather than sitting at home and dwelling on it.
In her job, she is always in contact with women diagnosed with breast cancer.
We have people who are upset with getting a diagnosis, she said. Im able to give back to those people the way I was given support by groups, friends and family.
Portia Cornelius, who had her second bout with the disease in 2008, is a member of Georgia State Universitys Navigator program, which encourages women to get screened for breast cancer.
The 54-year-old Decatur resident said she and other members of the Navigator program feel it is their purpose to encourage people to get mammograms.
They want to help, she said. They want to share their stories. God knows I will share my story; I dont mind sharing my story in order to encourage or help someone.
When talking to people, Cornelius says she encourages them to live a healthy life.
Get a little more exercise, eat better, she said. That is all a part of the plan.
Dr. Dee Baldwin, the founder of Navigators, said that breast cancer survivors dont want people with the disease to feel isolated.
We have lots of support groups around the city, she said. With support programs and our Navigators programs, women are able to connect with each other and tell their stories and how they got through it. It is a major form of support for the women.
Carter said she believes God has a purpose for her since she survived breast cancer twice and is employed at the cancer center.
Ive been there, she said. Ive been where they are now.