Dawn Moore, who moved to Englewood from the Florida Keys, is a breast cancer survivor and now, peer facilitator for Venice Breast Cancer Networking.
When were you diagnosed and at what age?
I was 52, diagnosed in 2006. I had just moved here and knew nothing about local resources.
What treatment did you have?
Two surgeries to remove the masses, chemotherapy and radiation.
Did you face any obstacles? If so, how did you overcome them?
Fortunately, I had good insurance and family support, so I didn’t face obstacles a lot of other people do. The main obstacle was being certain I was making the right decision. The doctors make recommendations but it’s up to you to decide.
I tell the newly diagnosed people I work with that it’s like being dropped by parachute into a country where you can’t speak the language and don’t know which way to go.
Until it all settles, it’s very difficult because your mind is spinning, everyone is giving you different advice. You have to get comfortable with the decision that is right for you.
What was the most challenging part?
Finding out about local resources. I did some searching on the internet and talked to people to find some in the area.
The program I joined helped me get reacquainted with yoga — the most wonderful gift was the breathing exercises and the meditation when you’re trying to center yourself, relax and get to sleep at night.
I’m also a quilter and the program I was in had something called Stitch and Chat — I’ve taken over that program now and it’s still around today. One of the things we do is make heart-shaped pillows that we give to women on the day of breast cancer surgery. We’ve probably given out close to 2,000 pillows over the years.
Where did you find the greatest support?
I’ve gotten to know some really amazing people through the groups and through the support organizations. And my family’s amazing, as well. They’ve always been there.
I’ve made great relationships with all the people who provide support services around here.
How has this experience affected your relationship with family and friends?
One of the things you learn is who your real friends are — some people have funny reactions to a cancer diagnosis. But you value the people you love more.
How has this experience changed you?
I had no idea that I would take such an active role in providing support. I probably spend 20 hours a week, maybe more, with the groups. I volunteer in the Breast Health Department at Sarasota Memorial one day a week. We help comfort and care for patients who are waiting, we talk to their families. The volunteers in that department are all breast cancer survivors.
I also spend a lot of time with the Cancer Resource Network. I meet with the Englewood-area Cancer Foundation, I volunteer with the American Cancer Society — they have a breast cancer support buddy system. Team Tony in Sarasota does the same thing.
I don’t think I would be involved in any of these things had it not been for my diagnosis.
What advice would you give to others?
Get support, don’t be afraid to reach out. You’re a survivor two seconds after you hear the words “you have cancer.” As long as you’re breathing, you’re a survivor, even if you’re still undergoing treatment.
We have women who come to the group at all stages — there are people still being treated up to someone who’s going on 18 years as a survivor.