The unexpected benefit of being a myCancerConnection volunteer

When I was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma in 2007, I decided to be an active participant in my cancer care. I joined a clinical trial at MD Anderson. I educated myself with materials from The Learning Center. I asked my doctors questions. I participated in support groups led by MD Anderson’s social work counselors. And I made myself available to other patients with similar diagnoses through myCancerConnection, MD Anderson’s one-on-one cancer support community. While I was the instigator of most of these activities, it was the last one that offered me the greatest and most beneficial surprises. Over the years, I’ve received a number of calls from myCancerConnection volunteers. They passed along the contact information of patients with similar diagnoses who’d requested support. In each case, I called those patients promptly and did my best to respond to every question and offer my best advice. I felt completely inadequate. A surprising friendship Try though I did, it seemed that I could barely guess at what other people were going through. Our diagnoses might be similar, but our circumstances could differ considerably. For instance, I’d had a favorable response to a clinical trial. Sometimes, other people didn’t. So, how could I avoid reinforcing their despair if the cancer treatments that had worked so well for me weren’t working for them? Then, I was asked to contact “Bob.” I reached out, and we communicated through phone calls and email exchanges. Bob had encountered several pitfalls along his cancer journey, but he seemed to be handling them well. One day, we discovered we’d both be in Houston at the same time for...