By Chuck Fieldman
More than anything right now, Barb Thayer and Sara Joyce, Hinsdale residents who co-founded the group, My Breast Cancer Sisters in 2022, want to find and help other women who have been newly diagnosed with breast cancer.
My Breast Cancer Sisters was created to provide support to the newly diagnosed by introducing them to a local “Breast Cancer Sister” who has been through a similar experience.
“Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis can be devastating,” Thayer said. “Trying to understand test results and make treatment decisions, all while trying to keep yourself and your family calm, is overwhelming. Having someone to talk to who has been through what you are going through as a newly diagnosed patient can bring a great deal of comfort.”
And the 11 area women in the group who are “sisters” are ready, willing, and able to help other women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. They just wish they were busier being involved.
“We’re not getting the connections we had hoped for,” Thayer said. “We’re trying to spread the word and connect with more women in the same situation.”
Cristin Orput was very pleased to learn of the group and has been involved as one of its sisters from very early on.
“It’s an incredible concept and highly needed,” she said.Orput, a Hinsdale resident, was diagnosed with Invasive Lobular Carcinoma, Stage 2, via a mammogram in May 2016. She underwent a mastectomy and went through chemotherapy.
“I used a cold cap during chemo treatments so that I was able to keep my hair,” she said. Orput also underwent radiation therapy and breast reconstruction surgery. “Every woman’s journey is quite different with breast cancer,” she said.
Thayer agreed. “There are so many different nuances with cancer,” she said. “Finding someone who has been through what you’re going through is a huge help and comfort.”Thayer made it clear that My Breast Cancer Sisters is not a support group but rather a group of women who have themselves been through breast cancer and want to help the newly diagnosed.
“It’s so overwhelming when you get that diagnosis,” Thayer said. “Telling your family is one of the hardest things. You have to be strong at a time that’s very difficult.”
Thayer said she was diagnosed in August 2021 and had friends who were able to help her in the early days of her “breast cancer journey.” “As I went through my surgery and treatments, I realized that each person’s breast cancer path is very different, but we certainly could help one another along the path,” she said. “Sara and I began talking about this concept in early 2022 as a way for those who have survived breast cancer to support others in the early days of their journey.”
Thayer and Joyce are longtime friends who attended the University of Illinois together.Thayer said when the group was started, she and Joyce wanted to keep the group local, so they reached out to their personal network of breast cancer survivors, “Unfortunately, there are many breast cancer survivors in the Hinsdale area,” Thayer said. “Everyone was so interested in the group and willing to help. We have been trying to spread the word through social media and through local health care professionals.”
Thayer said group members are welcome to say as long as they like. “If they decide that they no longer want to participate or just don’t have time to help a sister at the moment, they can choose To withdraw,” she said. Thayer said that for her and the other “sisters” in the group, their motivation is helping others. “Knowing that you have a group of fellow breast cancer survivors who can help answer questions or sympathize with what you are going through is tremendously helpful,” she said.
More information about My Breast Cancer Sisters is available on the group’s website, www.mybreastcancersisters.org. ■
Who Are They?
Local sisters in the group
Barb was diagnosed with Stage 2A Invasive Lobular Carcinoma in August 2021. She opted for a lumpectomy and radiation and completed her treatment in November 2021. Barb and her husband, Steve, have lived in the Hinsdale area since 1997. They have three grown children.
Sara was diagnosed with Stage 1 invasive ductal carcinoma in March 2015. She and her husband, Matt, have lived in the Hinsdale area since 2001. They have three grown children.
Cristen was diagnosed with Invasive Lobular Carcinoma, Stage 2, via a mammogram in May 2016. She underwent a mastectomy and went through chemotherapy.
Cristen used a cold cap throughout her chemo treatments so that she was able to keep her hair. She also underwent radiation therapy and breast reconstruction surgery. Cristen and her husband live in Hinsdale and have three adult children.
Gina was diagnosed with an extremely rare low-grade Angiosarcoma of her right breast in 2011. She first had a lumpectomy when told it was most likely benign, followed by a mastectomy when malignancy was confirmed.
Reconstruction followed, including an infected expander removal and latissimus flap, and was completed by the end of 2012. Gina has an oncology nursing background and was very knowledgeable about the post-operative care required. Gina and her husband, Steve, have lived in the Hinsdale area since 2002 and have three grown children.
Terri was diagnosed with Stage 0 Ductal Carcinoma In Situ in her left breast in August 2014. She had a lumpectomy and was put on a five-year tamoxifen treatment plan. In 2019, she was diagnosed again with the same cancer in her right breast.
She chose to have a double mastectomy and completed the reconstruction by April of that year. Terri’s mother was also diagnosed with cancer twice. Terri is married with three children and lives and works in Hinsdale.
Pam was diagnosed with stage one ”triple negative” breast cancer in June 2013. Medical treatment involved lumpectomy, eight rounds of chemotherapy over 16 weeks, and 33 days of radiation therapy, finishing on December 31, 2013. Pam is a longtime Hinsdale resident, married to Paul Garvin, and mother of a grown son.
Lisa was diagnosed in 2013 with ductal carcinoma in situ in her left breast. Because of a questionable spot on her right side that was detected in an MRI biopsy, she chose to have a double mastectomy.
It wasn’t until the surgery that the cancer was detected in her lymph nodes, causing her to undergo both chemotherapy and radiation. Reconstructive surgery followed, as well as an unexpected latissimus flap surgery to fix a rare complication caused by radiation. Lisa, her husband Monte, and their family, live in Hinsdale.
Kim was diagnosed with Pleomorphic Invasive Lobular Carcinoma IIB (PILC) in November 2017. After numerous consultations, treatment included six months of neoadjuvant endocrine therapy, two lumpectomies followed by six weeks of radiation, which ended in April 2019. Kim moved to Hinsdale in 1997 with her husband, Pete, and has four grown children and five grandchildren.
Amy was diagnosed in April 2007 with stage 2 Triple Negative breast cancer. She had a mastectomy in her right breast and finished chemotherapy in September 2007. Amy lives in Hinsdale with her husband and has three grown children.
Sandy was first diagnosed in 2002 with Ductal Carcinoma In Situ. She had a mastectomy of the left breast and reconstruction with a tissue expander. Her older sister was diagnosed with cancer two weeks later.
As a result, Sandy had genetic testing and was relieved to hear she did not carry the BRCA Gene. In 2022, Sandy was diagnosed with stage 1 invasive ductal carcinoma in her right breast. She had another mastectomy and reconstruction with a tissue expander.
Sandy and her husband live in Hinsdale and have three adult daughters.
Sherri was in the final stages of donating a kidney to her brother, who was in critical need when she was diagnosed with Stage 0 Ductal Carcinoma In Situ in December 2021. Sherri chose to have a double mastectomy with tissue expander reconstruction. She was very grateful for her decision since her original diagnosis differed from the post-surgical pathology results, which showed stage 1 Cancer in both breasts.
Sherri was grateful to be spared from chemotherapy and is now on an aromatase inhibitor for the next 5-10 years. Sherri and her husband live in Clarendon Hills and have three adult children, and she recently became a grandma.