The Cancer Awareness and Support committee provides direct support for individuals diagnosed with cancer and their families, partnering with several nonprofit organizations to educate the underresourced community about the importance of cancer awareness and prevention through both awareness and support events. Below is one volunteer’s story of how she turned her compassion for the committee’s mission directly into action.

The past few months I’ve spent significantly more time volunteering with our new community partner Breast Treatment Task Force (BTTF). Periodically BTTF asks for volunteers to meet with women at their doctor’s appointments. My first experience with this was life-changing.

I traveled up to Harlem to meet a woman named Jessica. A young woman walked in and the receptionist pointed her in my direction. She said hello, apologized for being late due to the trains, and nervously chatted with me. Jessica is 31 years old, has no insurance, and works as an artist in the city. She felt a lump in her breast doing a self-exam and went to Planned Parenthood where they referred her to BTTF. I explained how BTTF would help her through this entire process and I was here for whatever support she needed. When she stood up, I told her I’d be here waiting when she got out. She gave me a look of gratitude that I can still see in my mind weeks later.

After her appointment, she came out and shared the good news. The doctor thought it was nothing but she would have a follow-up appointment in a few months. I smiled and asked if she wanted a hug. She threw her arms around me and we stood there, two strangers, hugging in the waiting room. I’m sure she was so scared with all the “What ifs?” After her appointment, we walked together to the subway and she thanked me again as we went our separate ways.

Later, I received a text: “Hi Shannon. It’s Jessica. Just wanted to thank you again for meeting me at the clinic. Knowing strangers care is really important especially in this city. Means a lot!”

I met another woman this week in Chinatown. She is also 31 and was so nervous when I arrived. Pam is an art teacher with a nonprofit organization. She does not have health insurance. Pam told me she had felt like she was going to pass out when the doctor told her during her annual appointment that he had found a lump. She nearly cried in the waiting room telling me she hadn’t been able to touch the lump all week as she waited for her mammogram. Pam was very appreciative that I was there to help with any questions but mostly for support during a stressful and scary time.

I am 31 years old. Breast cancer killed my great aunt. My great grandmother was a breast cancer survivor. My grandmother had a lumpectomy and is also a survivor. Sitting in the waiting room with Jessica and Pam was a reminder that I could be them. And if I were in their shoes, I too would want and need similar support.

I’m beyond grateful to the New York Junior League and BTTF for allowing me to support women in need and bring strangers a little closer. These experiences have been the most impactful in my Junior League tenure.

Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.