The Value of Being a Peer Mentor

Last updated: October 2018

Experiencing and living through a cancer diagnosis involves taking charge in an overwhelming environment of tests, treatments and physician visits. As a cancer patient, one needs to learn how to ask the right questions, seek a second opinion, and know how to locate supportive resources. This describes self-advocacy. This type of empowerment helped me avoid feelings of helplessness. Instead, it allowed me to maintain hope and enhance my quality of life.

Why peer support matters

Many survivors want to give something back in gratitude for survival. I felt that sharing my experience with other cancer patients would be a way to do this. Passing on this knowledge and experience from a seasoned survivor to a newly diagnosed cancer patient provides a foundation. This shared knowledge is based on the fact that information is powerful.

I was fortunate to contact the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society when initially diagnosed with Lymphoma. My contact person was most supportive, listened, and helped me cope with my anger and overwhelming anxiety. At that point, I made myself a promise that if I survived this cancer, I would like to be a patient advocate. In my earlier years as a nurse, I did have the opportunity to assist our staff oncologist in forming a cancer support group. During the meetings, I witnessed firsthand how cancer patients positively responded to education and support.

As a cancer survivor, I feel I can educate others, discuss survival, defy myths and stigmas, and help others struggling with similar issues. Advocacy is really informing and supporting people so that they can make the best decisions for themselves. I believe some insights about cancer can only come from a patient’s perspective.

Turning lemons into lemonade

I participate as a peer mentor in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Patti Robinson Kauffman First Connection program. This program connects cancer patients who are newly diagnosed or starting a new treatment with a trained peer volunteer who has gone through a similar experience. During a telephone call, I am able to listen to the patient’s need or concerns. I Offered resources may include a nutrition referral, local support groups, educational programs, online chats, and a newly available clinical trial specialist.

The patients are so appreciative of the calls and have verbalized a sense of comfort that someone cares. From my perspective, I am the one who is comforted to know that I can make a difference in someone’s life. Having cancer has been the most difficult challenge of my life. The ability to help advocate for other patients has allowed me to turn “lemons into lemonade” and show my gratitude for all the support I have received.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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