Maureen Luddy: Embrace What Brings You Joy - After Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Maureen Luddy: Embrace What Brings You Joy

December 23, 2020

When Maureen Luddy told friends about her breast cancer diagnosis, they asked what they could do to help her. Her response was always, “I’m going to be fine. If you want to do something, get a mammogram.”

Diagnosed in 2019 after her annual mammogram prompted more testing, Maureen underwent treatment soon thereafter. By the summer of 2020, Maureen had a reason to celebrate: Her first post-surgery mammogram showed she was cancer-free. Because early detection of cancer is so important, Maureen wants others to be as proactive as possible by getting screened regularly.

Returning Home to a Diagnosis – and Support

Maureen does have one caveat about scheduling medical appointments. “Don’t ever plan a mammogram the day before you are going somewhere,” she advises. An avid traveler, Maureen splits her time between Milwaukee and London, where her husband works and lives. On the day after her mammogram, Maureen was preparing to fly to London when she learned she needed follow-up imaging. An appointment wasn’t available for several days, so Maureen went ahead with her trip. While abroad, Maureen reconnected with her friend Jill who previously faced cancer herself. The two had initially bonded over a shared enthusiasm for mahjong – a Chinese game played with tiles – and they soon discovered they had something else in common.

When Maureen returned home and learned she had breast cancer, she received an outpouring of support from Jill and a network of other friends who went through the same diagnosis. As she recovered from treatment, she became active in a local support group, Sister Warriors. Connecting with others who shared the journey to thrive after breast cancer was eye-opening, and Maureen wanted to ensure other women had the same personalized support. She contacted ABCD: After Breast Cancer Diagnosis about becoming a Mentor.

Mentor training is immensely helpful, Maureen explains, because “you learn more to be an active listener” instead of simply waiting for your turn to speak. Her friend Jill, whose close support was an inspiration during Maureen’s journey, also signed up to become a Mentor and completed the training in late 2020.

Getting a Hug Over the Phone

By the time Maureen finished her Mentor training in the summer of 2020, the novel coronavirus was widespread in the U.S., creating new challenges for breast cancer patients. Emotional support has become even more critical during the pandemic, says Maureen. “There’s a huge need for Mentors now, because so many women are being diagnosed,” she says. “And even people that might have had a normal social network to talk about things don’t have it anymore.”

Mentors help reduce the isolation patients often feel following a diagnosis. It’s like being able to “give and get a hug on the phone,” says Maureen.

Today Maureen encourages the women she mentors to focus on something they enjoy, whether it’s baking, gardening, or planning that first post-pandemic vacation. While it’s not a substitute for meeting friends in person or going out to lunch together, one positive aspect of having all of this newfound time at home is that “you have the time to do the things you might never have explored,” she says.

For Maureen, a steady practice of knitting and regular mahjong games with friends helped her stay resilient and mindful throughout treatment and recovery. “I learned the best way to fight fatigue was to stay busy,” she says.

Humor can be a powerful coping skill too, and Maureen tries to bring this lightheartedness to mentoring. A big part of facing breast cancer is finding ways to laugh, and she loves knowing she made someone chuckle.

Giving is Better Than Receiving

During the pandemic, Maureen has followed her own advice and kept busy. She enjoys spending time with her son, working on knitting projects, and hosting a weekly online mahjong game with friends. In addition to volunteering as a Mentor, she is a loyal ABCD donor.

Maureen points to her Jewish heritage as a strong motivation for her to give back. Her grandparents often remarked that it is better to give than receive, and she’s found this to be true with ABCD. “Every time I’ve mentored somebody so far, I’ve gained more than I’ve given,” she says. “So I would encourage anybody that’s on the fence thinking of it to be a Mentor.”

— by ABCD Board Member Gina Rich

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