After receiving a breast cancer diagnosis at age 43, one woman became involved in advocacy with SHARE Cancer Support, spending hours speaking to women on the phone about treatments, emotional impacts and personal issues related to their breast cancer.
SHARE Cancer Support’s breast cancer helpline has been around for decades. It started with a phone and answering machine in the closet of an early SHARE volunteer’s New York City apartment. The helpline was primarily for those who had received a diagnosis of early-stage breast cancer, but those with metastatic breast cancer were welcome to call. Volunteers were trained to make peer matches and connect callers with metastatic breast cancer to other volunteers living with metastatic breast cancer. The system seemed to work.
Victoria Goldberg received a diagnosis of early-stage breast cancer at age 43. Ten years later, she received a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer, which derailed her corporate IT career — one she exceled at. Victoria joined SHARE a year or so after her metastatic breast cancer diagnosis and immediately took several helpline shifts per week. She loved to come into the office, work her shift and socialize with staff and other volunteers. Victoria would often remain on the phone while others left to catch trains, meet friends or catch a show.
Victoria began speaking with most of the callers with metastatic breast cancer. She attended conferences and Project Lead and kept up with the latest research about the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. Victoria would spend hours with each woman discussing her diagnosis, treatment plan, questions to ask her doctor, the emotional impact of living with an incurable disease, family issues and more. Victoria became a lifeline to so many women.
After a year or so of working this way, Victoria began talking to me about the need for a helpline dedicated to those living with metastatic breast cancer. The helpline, she said, would be staffed by volunteers who are living with metastatic breast cancer. I told her I would think about it. A few days later, Victoria asked if I had thought about it. I hadn’t. She asked again during her next shift, and again after that. Victoria was relentless in her desire to help, and felt she would be able to make a bigger impact by helping more people if she could bring others on board to share the workload.
TalkMets was born about three years ago. It’s a dedicated helpline by and for those living with metastatic breast cancer.
Running a helpline as a volunteer would be enough for most people, but Victoria decided she could help even more women if she became a support group facilitator, which she did, and a host of “Our MBC Life” — a podcast created, produced and hosted by a group of people living with metastatic breast cancer.
Victoria’s drive is unimaginable. She has this much energy and passion even while in continued treatment for her own disease. She has helped so many women deal with the devastating impact of a fatal disease diagnosis. Victoria has talked many women off the ledge and onto the path back to living life.
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