Giving back: Mentees become DBCC Peer Mentors

“Only people who have walked the walk can tell you what it is like,” says Barbara Nolan, breast cancer survivor and DBCC peer mentor.  Barbara, who resides in Bear, was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2009.  “When I first found out I had breast cancer, I was panicked.”

In search of a local support group, Barbara came across DBCC’s website and called DBCC Program Director, Cathy Holloway.  “She soothed a lot of my fears before my surgery,” Barbara said.  Cathy then matched her with a peer mentor, a breast cancer survivor who is trained to provide support to those newly diagnosed.

“It’s rare to have an instant bond with someone you don’t know but my mentor and I became good friends.”    

Program Manager Connie Holdridge mentoring.

Diane Duncker feels the same way.  Diane was diagnosed with breast cancer while moving from York, Pa. to Lewes.  “I was diagnosed around the holidays and had no family or support down here.  And I didn’t really know anyone who had been through it at that time,” she said.  Diane was put in touch with DBCC and was matched with a mentor.  “My mentor was great with calling and helping me through my journey.”

After being diagnosed in December 2008, Gail Lanouette of Dover was referred to DBCC by her surgeon.  “Within 10 days of my diagnosis I had an entire package of information from DBCC and a card from Lois [DBCC Program Manager],” she said.  “I called Lois and she was so supportive and calmed my fears.”  Gail was matched with a peer mentor who had a similar surgery and treatment plan.

Gail was told by her doctors that she qualified for a clinical trial.  “I had so many questions so I called Lois and she was great at guiding me through the questions.”  Gail chose to enroll in the clinical trial.  “I knew the medicine that was helping me was made possible by other woman who enrolled in a clinical trial so I had to do it.”

Gail Lanouette (right) with Program Manager Lois Wilkinson

After Barbara, Diane and Gail went through surgery and treatment, they decided to become Peer Mentors themselves.  “Once I felt strong enough to help someone else, I signed up for the training,” Barbara said.  DBCC hosts quarterly Peer Mentor training sessions in all three counties and at Union Hospital in Cecil County, Md.  The Peer Mentor Support Program provides one-on-one support for a newly diagnosed breast cancer patient from a trained breast cancer survivor.

“I knew when I finished chemo that I wanted to give back and help other women through their journey,” Gail said.

“Because if I didn’t have a mentor, I don’t think I would have been able to figure it all out.”

Gail has mentored a few women and says the peer mentor training has also helped her mentor some friends through their breast cancer journeys.  “My husband was my best supporter but it is so important to have other women.  Other ladies told me it was okay to feel tired and sick and shared tips with me to keep me more comfortable through my treatment,” she said.  Gail explained that small pieces of wisdom like where to get lymphedema sleeves or to use cooling gel after radiation made all the difference.

Because Gail went through a clinical trial, she also participated in the DBCC Clinical Trial Peer Mentor Training program.  The program is for survivors who have participated in clinical trials and want to help those newly diagnosed make educated decisions about clinical trials and dispel some of the myths about trials and research.  For more information, click here.

“DBCC is phenomenal,” Gail says.  “They do so much for so many people.  DBCC helps those newly diagnosed through the journey – emotionally and physically.  And this program is important because those newly diagnosed look at all the survivors who have been there and then they know they will be there too,” Gail said.

“When you are a peer mentor you form warm relationships and such a great camaraderie with the women you mentor,” Barbara said.  The Peer Mentor Support Program is available to those newly diagnosed at no charge.  “When I meet people in the community who receive a breast cancer diagnosis, I always recommend they call DBCC and get a peer mentor,” Diane said.

To learn more about the Peer Mentor Support Program, click here or call 1-866-312-DBCC.