“St. Jude was the reason I was able to start the following New Year off as a survivor. Through my mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation, they held my hand and guided me through every step.”
From survivor to supporter
By Holly Bondus, St. Jude volunteer, patient and breast cancer survivor
I never thought that one of the worst times in my life could lead to some of the best experiences of my life.
It was May 2006. I was 48, married to my husband of 27 years with two teenage kids, when I noticed some weird changes with my body. A few appointments and one breast biopsy later, I received the news that no woman ever wants to hear: You have breast cancer.
I’d had a routine mammogram eight months earlier, but nothing had shown up on the scan. My immediate reaction wasn’t fear or even sadness — it an intense determination to beat this quickly with as little interruption to my family’s life as possible.
St. Jude was the reason I was able to start the following New Year off as a survivor. Through my mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation, they held my hand and guided me through every step. They scheduled appointments around my kids’ activities, showed me compassion in every interaction, and everyone from the lab to the front desk nurses knew my name and treated me like family.
I felt so loved and cared for. I knew I needed to do something to give back.
I became one St. Jude’s first Shared Journey Program volunteers (and still am today) mentoring newly diagnosed women going through breast cancer. I let them know they are not alone, and I am their shoulder to cry on when they feel they have no one else to turn to.
The following year, I became a model in St. Jude’s annual A Walk Among the Stars Fashion Show fundraiser for their Crosson Cancer Institute. I’d never heard of an event that celebrated cancer patients and survivors in this unique way, and I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of it. The second I stepped on the runway, I had the time of my life. Cancer was the furthest thing from my mind. I wanted to help others have this same life-changing experience.
Over the next few years, I volunteered as an A Walk Among the Stars model mentor, and was then asked to join the event committee, which I’ve proudly been a part of for three years, helping to fundraise and oversee the model and mentor program.
This year’s 30th anniversary event brings my cancer journey full circle. A Walk Among the Stars will raise funds to fully transition St. Jude’s breast center to today’s most advanced technology for early detection — 3D mammography. This technology will benefit every woman, but particularly the 40% of women like me who have dense breast tissue which can mask small cancers on a traditional 2D scan.
I am so passionate about bringing 3D mammography to the women in my life and community. Because if it wasn’t for early detection, I don’t know if I would be here.
St. Jude has done so much for me, from helping beat my cancer to giving me a purpose and passion for helping others through their journeys. I feel like I get so much more back than what I give. I am forever grateful.
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