Flo’s Story: Finding Your Own Power Through Mentoring
January 23, 2024
Flo Cameron loves to laugh. But after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021, Flo faced moments of sadness that she describes as “some of the lowest times in my life.”
Because she had a family history of the disease, Flo wanted to do everything possible to reduce her risk of recurrence. Her treatment included chemotherapy, radiation, and a double mastectomy. “I underwent all of the ‘necessary abuse,’ as my oncologist calls it,” says Flo, a retired speech pathologist who was born in Scotland and now lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Getting Support, Without the Drama
For Flo, who lives with her daughter and two grandchildren, going through chemotherapy was the hardest part of her journey. She wanted to confide in someone but was hesitant to burden loved ones with her fears. Although her friends and family were wonderful and loving, “they had not walked in my shoes,” she says. Flo worried that sharing her feelings with those who hadn’t experienced breast cancer might make her seem like a “drama queen,” as she puts it.
Flo emphasizes that her medical team was excellent, but no one told her about emotional support resources. In the past, she had participated in grief and loss support groups. “But for me, a one-on-one opportunity to interact always seemed to work better,” says Flo. She decided to conduct some research on her own. Looking online, she found an organization called Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC).
Through LBBC, Flo was able to connect with a woman who had also been diagnosed with breast cancer and went through chemotherapy. “She was an angel for me,” Flo says. “I could call her and cry. I could call her and vent.”
Being able to talk openly with someone who understood her questions and emotions so well made a lasting impact on Flo. “As I got better, I wanted to give back,” she says. “I wanted to share and be there for somebody else.” Her LBBC mentor suggested a few organizations, one of which was ABCD: After Breast Cancer Diagnosis.
Becoming a Mentor
Flo completed ABCD’s New Mentor training in September 2023. Though it was difficult at times to revisit parts of her breast cancer journey through the training, “I found it to be very powerful and useful,” she says.
ABCD’s Match Specialists, Carrie Williams and Amanda Hirsch, do an excellent job connecting Mentors and Participants, Flo says. “It makes a world of difference that I can talk to somebody who really needs me.”
Flo has been matched with three Participants so far. “The actual mentoring process has been amazingly therapeutic for me,” she says. “I think part of mentoring is that it gives you back some sense of power in your life. You can reach out and make somebody else’s life different because of your experience.”
Today Flo tries to raise awareness about breast cancer support organizations like ABCD and LBBC. Whenever possible, she shares brochures and information at her doctor’s office and tells others in her social circles about these resources.
And she still loves a good laugh. If you’ve gone through breast cancer, you can laugh about some surprising things, says Flo. She strives to bring a lighthearted touch to her mentoring. Keeping that sense of humor will “stand you in good stead,” as her father used to say, and help you cope in difficult times.
Flo was diagnosed in the summer of 2021 with Stage 2 TNBC. Flo chose a bilateral mastectomy with no reconstruction. Her treatments included chemotherapy and radiation.