June Winters: Mentorship Reaching Across the World
— Abby Padilla, ABCD Marketing & Communications Specialist
January 23, 2023
June Winters is no stranger to mentorship. Since starting her journey with ABCD in 2017 she has mentored some 25 Participants and describes her experience as an “opportunity to listen and to give a sense of hope, encouragement and empowerment to others.”
Our story picks up in the fall of 2020. June was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer (MBC). The cancer was discovered during a routine checkup with her medical oncologist when they found a tumor marker was elevated. While June is now in remission with ongoing treatment, she decided to take a break from her mentorship role to focus on herself and her treatment. Right away, ABCD suggested that June become a Participant.
“This was wonderful, because I did not have a Mentor with my first diagnosis. I was matched with two Mentors, and it was so helpful. We are still in contact; we’re friends!” says June.
A year after her second diagnosis, June knew she was ready to continue her role as a Mentor, now for women with Stage IV. When asked why she chose to continue to be a Mentor she described “Well, at first with a metastatic diagnosis, my whole life was at a standstill, what’s going to happen? Will this treatment work? It is very frightening. Everyone at stage I, II, and III, are afraid of it progressing to stage IV. And when it does you think ‘this was what I’ve been afraid of.’ And now how am I going to handle this? I’ve always talked about experiencing gratitude, and joy. That is even deeper at this level, it’s progressed into a deeper meaning. Hope is such an important part of the whole journey, and no matter what stage you are at, I’ve come to realize that there is always hope. But what we hope for changes.”
As a Mentor June continues to carry these affirmations onward to others.
In June of 2022, Match Specialist Carrie Williams contacted June to ask if she would be willing to mentor a new “unique” Participant, someone who needed support who lived in Australia.
June described how she was eager and willing to “give this a go.” This experience has brought new opportunities as well as new challenges. June knew challenges would be evident because she would be “working with someone on the other side of the Earth and in a different time zone.” The two soon made contact and continue to use email to correspond.
June explained how the use of email (solely written communication) is exciting. It allows for a different experience. It allows for time to ponder thoughts when responding and time to read, understand, and reflect on the words. The relationship was immediate. “Right away it just felt comfortable. I could feel the warmth in her heart, just like in talking to a person it’s so important to listen [in this case read] what their needs really are. I can really hear her voice through her emails.”
The two have exchanged over 40 emails and the length of time between correspondence varies from a few hours to a few weeks. “She’s there and she knows I am here.”
In addition to their meaningful conversations, they also share photographs with one another which only enriches their connection. “It is your journey and as you get to know one another it becomes more than just about your cancer journey, it is also about your own personal life. You really get to learn about one another as a person. What your interests are, your background, your families.” This experience has also provided the chance for each of them to learn about the cultural and medical differences. “For us it’s a white Christmas, for Anna it is a beach day Christmas.”
Research indicates that taking advantage of non-clinical support like ABCD’s one-to-one support has a number of benefits. These benefits extend to both our Mentors and Participants and ABCD is honored to make connections that now are reaching across the world.
June Winters was diagnosed in 2014 with Stag IIB ER+PR+HER2- Invasive Ductal Carcinoma opting for a bilateral mastectomy, chemo, and radiation. In 2020, June was diagnosed with Stage IV Metastasis to the lung and bone, she is currently on targeted and endocrine therapies.