Making a Difference: Judy Mindin Celebrates 16 Years with ABCD - After Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Making a Difference: Judy Mindin Celebrates 16 Years with ABCD

— By: Caitlin Moyer

January 12, 2020

For the past 16 years, Judy Mindin has dedicated her time and talents to ABCD: After Breast Cancer Diagnosis, helping our organization provide customized, one-to-one mentoring for breast cancer patients, caregivers, and survivors.

As Director of Program Services & Healthcare Partnerships, Judy oversees the Mentors, from the application process, through training, making matches with Participants, providing continuing education and beyond.  She also manages ABCD’s relationships with healthcare institutions and medical professionals

And, although she very much loves what she does, it’s not at all what she envisioned herself doing after her stint in corporate America

Judy originally left a 25-year career to own and operate a jewelry store and an art gallery with her husband Lionel but, after they condensed their stores, she decided to dip her toe back into the business world.  “I never intended to go back into a full-time career. I was done with that,” Judy says. “I just figured I’d do something less stressful, something to keep me connected to the community, for socialization, to be mentally active.”

“I WAS IN THE WRONG PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME.”

In November 2006, Judy went to Manpower, a workforce placement company, where she learned that she had inadvertently applied for a warehouse or factory position. A woman in the lobby overheard her conversation with the hiring manager and interjected.

“She said, ‘I think Melodie Wilson is looking for you,’” Judy recalled. And, while Judy recognized the name of the famous television newscaster in Milwaukee, she replied, “She can’t be looking for me because I don’t know her.”  “The woman said, ‘Give me five minutes,’ and then grabbed my resume from this young man. We went into an empty office where she looked at it and said, ‘Okay, here’s the deal.’”

The woman, Judy learned, was a Manpower employee named Corrine. Corrine worked at Manpower’s corporate headquarters, located across town but had missed a mail delivery that morning forcing her to drive to the office where she ended up meeting Judy.

Corrine explained that Melodie was looking for someone to fill an administrative position in her organization (ABCD: After Breast Cancer Diagnosis), to help with restructuring and reorganizing.  Judy declined, telling her that she wasn’t interested; she had been there, done that, and wasn’t open to working full time.

With Corrine working as Melodie’s contact, Judy learned very quickly just how persistent Melodie could be.  “I always joke that I was in the wrong place at the right time,” Judy laughs, recounting the story of how, after four weeks, she realized Melodie was going to be relentless and finally agreed to meet with her.

“SIXTEEN YEARS LATER, HERE I AM.”

Even though Judy agreed to a meeting, in her mind, she had already decided she did not want this particular role. She approached the appointment as a “throwaway” or practice interview since it had been so long since she had officially interviewed for a position and wasn’t sure she even wanted to return to work.

“It went horribly. It was awful,” Judy recalls. “It seemed like every question that Melodie asked me, I felt like I answered it wrong. So, we finished with the interview, and I got up and grabbed my coat and started walking down the hallway. All of a sudden, I heard these feet behind me and, it was Melodie running toward me saying, ‘Where are you going?’ And I said, ‘Well, aren’t we done?’ And she said, ‘No. I’d like you to meet Terri Lee, the acting Executive Director.’ I was so shocked. I just kind of stood there and took a deep breath and said ‘Okay.’”

From there, Judy met with and told Terri Lee she was not interested in the position. But like Melodie, Terri Lee was persistent and eventually, Judy agreed to help out, but only for three months.

And even so, in that first week, with the amount of work and organization Judy found herself tasked with, she still felt like leaving. Terri Lee sensed that and, when Judy told her she wasn’t going to take this on, Terri Lee bargained with her once more.  “She said, ‘You give me eight more hours and if at the end of that day, you want to leave, I won’t stop you,’” Judy recalls. “Sixteen years later here I am.”

“THIS JUST SPEAKS TO MY HEART.”

So what changed for Judy?  She says Terri Lee, Melodie and she “just clicked,” and she appreciated the chance to truly make a difference.

When Judy’s initial three-month stint was up, she approached Melodie to tell her it was time to move on. “She looked at me, raised her eyebrow and said, ‘You really thought that after I fought to get you in here I’d let you leave?’” Judy laughs.

“This place, this career, this part of my life gives me an opportunity to make a difference, to  know I am doing something that really  matters. ABCD and the work I do here speaks to my heart.”

Shortly after Judy began working for the organization, Melodie was re-diagnosed with breast cancer. Living close by, Judy would go to Melodie’s home and work with her, getting to know her family very well in the process. Melodie passed away in 2009 from the disease.

“I think in my heart of hearts, the universe, God, or whatever you believe in, pushed me to ABCD for a reason. Certainly, it’s about being able to make a difference with the Participants who call in and being able to be there for the Mentors – to train them, support them and build the best possible program. But on a personal level, I think that I needed to come into Melodie and her family’s lives to be there and to help support them through one of the most challenging times in their lives. And, to this day I hold that entire relationship close to my heart.”

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

The organization has changed a lot over the years and Judy has been there every step of the way.  “I’ve worn every hat you can wear here,” she says. “I hope I’ve been a real asset to the organization and that I’ve done as right by it as it has for me.”

In her current role, Judy focuses on overseeing the Mentor application process and initial onboarding, conducting bi-annual training sessions for new Mentors; assisting in the Mentor-Participant match process; making follow-up calls with Participants on a quarterly basis to ensure that the program is working the way it is intended; developing continuing education for Mentors and Participants; and building a national network with both healthcare providers and sister organizations within the breast cancer community. All while honoring Melodie’s legacy and vision.

In her 16 years, she’s seen multiple staffing changes, as well as advances in both technology and medicine. From capturing data to leading virtual training sessions, like many organizations, ABCD has embraced new and improved technology to help propel the company forward and help support more individuals affected by a breast cancer diagnosis.

On the medical side of things, in particular, she notes the ability to diagnose breast cancer earlier, as a big improvement, provided people are diligent about getting their mammograms and following through with follow-up appointments.

Still, Judy laments that after all these years, millions of people are still fighting the disease.

“The thing that’s surprising to me is the number of younger women who are being diagnosed with later stage breast cancer,” she says. “When I came to the organization, I had one or two acquaintances that I knew who had breast cancer. Now, even though the medical world is making great strides, I know so many people who have gone through breast cancer and it touches so many families and so many friends. It’s simply sad.”  

In 2021, demand for ABCD’s services was up 57% over 2020, a statistic that provides unwanted job security for Judy and the ABCD staff.

“When I started with the organization, we had a saying – we hoped that we would get to a place where we would lose our jobs, that there wouldn’t be a need for us anymore. But unfortunately, all these years later there’s a need and I think it’s even a greater need now,” Judy said, reflecting on the past two years in particular.

“With the pandemic, the American Cancer Society released a stat recently saying that they consider the USA to be in a breast cancer crisis because there were so many delayed mammograms, treatments and surgeries,” she says. “It’s not good.”

However, with the organization’s dedicated team of over 250 active Mentors and support from generous donors and partners, ABCD has been able to meet the growing demand for personalized hope, guidance, compassion, and comfort.

Having served over 101,000 individuals across all 50 states and in seven different countries, ABCD is doing something that truly matters. And Judy is in the right place, during this time of greatest need, making a difference each and every day.