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No one should go through breast cancer alone

When a doctor tells a woman, “you have breast cancer,” it can be shattering. She may feel vulnerable, and alone. She may feel overwhelmed by questions and concerns. While under this stress, she may have to learn about and try to understand complex medical treatments and then choose the best one.

Talking with a specially trained American Cancer Society Reach to Recovery volunteer at this time can give comfort and provide an opportunity for emotional grounding. Volunteers are breast cancer survivors who give patients the chance to discuss fears and concerns, and to ask questions of someone who knows firsthand what it’s like.

Most importantly, Reach to Recovery volunteers offer hope – because they have survived breast cancer, and have gone on to lead full, productive lives. They are living proof that there is life after breast cancer, and that life can be good after breast cancer.

And right now there is a need for more Native American volunteers for Reach to Recovery across the nation.

How it works

For more than 40 years, the American Cancer Society Reach to Recovery program has helped people cope with breast cancer. Beginning when someone is faced with a breast cancer diagnosis, and continuing throughout the experience.

Through face-to-face visits or by phone, Reach to Recovery volunteers give support for:

  • people recently diagnosed with breast cancer;
  • people facing a possible diagnosis of breast cancer;

  • those interested in or who have undergone a lumpectomy or mastectomy;

  • those considering breast reconstruction;

  • those who have lymphedema;

  • those who are undergoing or who have completed treatment such as chemotherapy and radiation;

  • people facing breast cancer recurrence or metastasis (the spread of cancer to another part of the body).

Since breast cancer affects the whole family, volunteers are also trained to give support and provide up-to-date information for spouses, children, friends, and other loved ones. Volunteers can also help with information on types of permanent prostheses, as well as lists of where those items are available within a patient’s community. No products are endorsed.

Native American Reach to Recovery volunteers needed

Reach to Recovery works through carefully selected and trained volunteers. All volunteers complete an initial training and participate in ongoing continuing education sessions.

“Reach is offered to Native American women on the reservation at their treatment facility city and by phone,” said Autumn VanBuskirk, a Reach to Recovery program administrator in South Dakota.

Often, patients prefer to set-up the visit after they are out of the hospital, as they are overwhelmed with information and not sure what questions to ask the volunteer.

“If we had more Native American breast cancer survivors trained as Reach to Recovery volunteers who lived on the reservation, patients would have the option to have a face-to-face visit with them when they are home,” VanBuskirk said.

Reach to Recovery is intended to match patients with survivors, based on similarities of circumstance and diagnosis.

“In an effort to achieve the most meaningful relationship between the survivor and patient, it is important that the society accommodate the cultural differences of Native Americans. The society seeks to achieve this by enlisting Native American breast cancer survivors,” VanBuskirk said.

Are you a breast cancer survivor who has overcome cancer? Would you like to make a difference in the lives of others affected by breast cancer?

Call the American Cancer Society toll-free at (800) 227-2345 or visit the society Web site.

For information on this article, contact Charlotte Hofer at