Breast cancer survivor, volunteer: How I support other patients

During one of breast cancer survivor Margaret Looper’s early visits to MD Anderson some 15 years ago, a volunteer who escorted her to her appointments left a remarkable impression. “She was just so cheerful. She was young, she had her volunteer jacket on and she had this long bouncing hair. I thought to myself, ‘How could this person be cheerful? Well, she’s never had cancer. That’s why she could be so cheerful,’” Margaret recalls. “Then she said something about her cancer, and I said, ‘Wait, you had cancer!?’ And she said, ‘Yeah, I’m a survivor.” And I thought, wow! And she got well!” After that interaction, Margaret told her daughter, “When I get over this cancer, I’m going to try doing that.” Shifting from breast cancer survivor to volunteer Two years later, when Margaret was cancer-free, her daughter came across a newspaper article announcing the opening of MD Anderson in The Woodlands. Margaret, who lives in Montgomery County, thought it was the perfect volunteer opportunity. She contacted MD Anderson, and in the fall of 2004, she became the first volunteer to serve at The Woodlands location. “I was the only volunteer for many years, and I was constantly changing what I did because we started off very small,” she says. “Whatever they asked me to do, I would do. I also just sort of looked for things to do.” Like all MD Anderson volunteers, Margaret was trained on how to help patients who appear lost, cold, lonely or upset. And because of her experience as a patient, she makes a point of mentioning that she’s a survivor to patients...