“Hope has been my byword all along,” said Oakley. “Every sunset brings peace, and every sunrise brings hope.”
Reach to Recovery volunteers offer understanding, support and hope because they themselves have survived breast cancer and have gone on to live normal, productive lives, said Oakley, who herself was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. Fortunately, her cancer has not returned.
When she was first diagnosed, she was called by someone from the Murray chapter of Reach to Recovery. “And we just talked. It just felt good to talk to someone that knew what I was going through, that I could listen to,” she said.
Volunteers are breast cancer survivors who give patients and family members an opportunity to express feelings, talk about fears and concerns, and ask questions of someone who is knowledgeable and level-headed, the ACS web site stated.
“The most important thing is that people have someone to talk to,” Oakley said. “We’re not there to tell them what decisions to make, that’s between them and their doctor and their family.”
Oakley said that as a Reach to Recovery member, she has talked to about 30 people in the Trigg-Lyon-Caldwell area. She retired from teaching in 1997 and works part time for Broadbent Foods and Gifts.
One of the more common worries Oakley said she gets from those she calls is that they will lose their hair. She also said that when she was undergoing treatment, she preferred to wear hats.
“Some ladies want to have a call before surgery, some want to wait until several days after surgery,” Oakley said. “I went to Paducah for training, and they give you a bag as a resource for yourself.”
That bag, Oakley said, includes items like stress balls. She added that sometimes, she just gives them a phone call, although if they’re in Trigg County she will probably give them a visit if they want one.
Sometimes, a cancer patient wants to talk to a stranger about what they’re going through, as their family might have their own emotions about the situation, said Oakley.
Volunteers are trained to give support and up-to-date information, including literature for spouses, children, friends, and other loved ones, and can also, when appropriate, provide breast cancer patients with a temporary breast form and information on types of permanent prostheses, as well as lists of where those items are available within a patient’s community, the web site stated, adding that no products are endorsed.
Reach to Recovery works through carefully selected and trained volunteers who have fully adjusted to their breast cancer treatment, and all volunteers complete an initial training and participate in ongoing continuing education sessions.
“For more than 40 years, the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery program has helped people (female and male) cope with their breast cancer experience,” according to the ACS web site. “This experience begins when someone is faced with the possibility of a breast cancer diagnosis and continues throughout the entire period that breast cancer remains a personal concern.”
For more information or to locate a Reach to Recovery program in the area, visit “In Your Area” on the ACS website at www.cancer.org, or call 1-800-227-2345.