Mervyn Antonio of Middletown knows what the shock of an unexpected breast cancer diagnosis feels like, and that’s why, even seven years after her diagnosis, this working mother of two young, active boys is doing her best to make other breast cancer patients’ journeys easier.
“I felt I was so fortunate to beat the cancer, I wanted to give something back,” explains Mervyn, who was only age 40 and an active runner when she was diagnosed. Now, as the coordinator for the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery program in Delaware, she provides women who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer an ear to listen and a strong shoulder for support. That’s because she felt isolated when she received her news. She wants to make sure that other patients can reach out to someone.
“At first, I didn’t know how to deal with the experience of being diagnosed with breast cancer. I couldn’t even begin to talk to my family and kids. I lost a lot of weight. But, I finally went to counseling at the hospital where I was being treated, and I got myself energized.”
In addition, she credits her sons with being “a big part of what got me up and going.” But even when a woman has family support, there’s nothing like having an experienced survivor to talk to regarding her experience.
Mervyn and other certified volunteers like her will call, meet, and mentor newly diagnosed patients who would like support from women who have gone through the experience. “We try to match women with similar backgrounds and life experiences,” says Lindsay Freeman, Wilmington’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Events manager.
“They might have one visit or call, or they may forge a life-long relationship.”
“You don’t have to go through breast cancer alone,” is Mervyn’s message to all Delaware women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. “Thanks to Reach to Recovery, there’s always someone available to lend you an ear. Talking helped restore my energy and positive attitude.”
As a tireless volunteer, Mervyn has decorated personalized ornaments for the “Love Lights a Tree” project in December. The ornaments honor loved ones with cancer and are hung on live trees on the lawn of the American Cancer Society’s New Castle headquarters. Mervyn also participates in Relay For Life.