A Mentor Can Be Exactly the Support Someone Needs
— By Gina Rich
August 17, 2022
Elise Haschker could feel her mind spinning. It was January 2022, and she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her medical team gave her a folder full of information, but Elise was too overwhelmed to read through it. When her nurse navigator suggested attending a support group, Elise felt even more scared. “Just the words ‘support group,’ it freaked me out. It did the opposite for me,” says Elise, who lives with her husband and three children in Wisconsin.
Eventually, Elise flipped through the folder. Inside, she found a flyer with information about one-to-one peer support available through ABCD: After Breast Cancer Diagnosis. The chance to talk with someone who had a similar diagnosis and life circumstances immediately appealed to Elise. “That is exactly the support I need,” she recalls thinking.
When Elise called ABCD, Match Specialists took the time to listen and ensure she was matched with the right Mentor. Shortly after that conversation, Elise was able to speak with her Mentor, Joy Steinberg, who lives in California.
The pair made a quick connection. “I just felt so safe talking with Joy,” says Elise. “She could relate to me right away.”
One major benefit with a Mentor is that they can respond to cancer-related questions and worries based on real experience. For instance, Joy was able to reassure Elise about chemotherapy because that aspect of treatment had been Joy’s biggest fear.
Another way having a Mentor helps: It can be tough to talk about cancer with loved ones, especially those who have not experienced a diagnosis themselves. “It’s scary,” says Joy. People hear the word cancer and assume it’s a death sentence, she says, or they wind up needing reassurance themselves. A Mentor can offer support from the perspective of someone who has truly walked in the patient’s shoes.
A Healing Experience
When she was diagnosed in 2020, Joy felt lost. Back then, she didn’t know anyone else with breast cancer. Fortunately, friends began calling to connect her with other women who were also diagnosed. “I talked to a few people, and it was so meaningful to me, and so helpful,” she says.
Those connections made a strong impact on Joy, and she wanted to give back. She initially reached out to an organization in California, hoping to volunteer, but no one followed up with her. After doing more research online, she found ABCD.
In 2021, Joy completed ABCD’s Mentor Training. “It was very rewarding,” she says. “It was a little bit of a support group.”
Serving as a Mentor has been healing, says Joy. Still, there are challenging aspects. “Sometimes you’re talking to someone who will put fear back into you, and you’re trying to be their Mentor,” she says. To keep her own worries in check, Joy leans on different coping strategies, from prioritizing exercise to calling on her own Mentor. She also enjoys spending time with her husband, three children, and two grandchildren. Joy’s support has already inspired Elise to give back. Recently, she expressed interest in becoming a Mentor. “I want to be there for someone, to say: Slow down. Don’t spiral,” says Elise. “There’s so many things you have to find out.”