Serving Others Yields Great Rewards for Uterine and Breast Cancer Survivor

photo of Linda Kaufmann

In 1991, at age 41, Linda Kaufmann heard the words that no one ever wants to hear: “You have cancer.” Although she knew that life would never be the same, she didn’t know that facing cancer would turn her into a source of help and hope for others facing the disease.

Kaufmann was diagnosed with breast cancer, and although her treatment was successful, about a year into her recovery she developed an uncomfortable arm swelling known as lymphedema. Few treatment options were available at the time, so Linda turned to the American Cancer Society for information. That’s when she learned about Reach To Recovery, a Society program that connects trained volunteers who’ve have had breast cancer themselves with newly diagnosed patients to help support and guide them through their cancer experience.

She spent the next 13 years volunteering with the program and offering direct support to people in her community. “I didn’t want other women to have the same issues I did,” said Kaufmann. “No one should have to face breast cancer alone.”

A big move and a big need

In the mid-2000s, Kaufmann retired from her job and moved to a new community. As it turned out, there was a new “job” waiting for her there.

When Kaufmann reached out to the American Cancer Society in her new town, she was surprised to learn that the Reach To Recovery program had almost completely lapsed. Concerned that women were missing out on the support they needed, Kaufmann joined a handful of volunteers to revive the program. She took on the role of program coordinator and over the next few years, she helped the nearly non-existent program grow to include a volunteer list a dozen strong.

In 2010, her efforts in the community earned her the Terese Lasser Award, which honors exceptional Reach To Recovery volunteers. That same year, however, she noticed something in her body that raised her concern: she was spotting even though she had already been through menopause. Knowing she had a higher than usual cancer risk because she had taken the drug tamoxifen for breast cancer, she paid her doctor a visit. That’s when she heard those frightening words once again. She had cancer, and this time it was in her uterus.

A new diagnosis

"Life is most worthwhile when you are doing something for someone else. I know I'm making a difference and that keeps me going."

Linda Kaufmann

As a strong advocate for getting good information, Kaufmann once again reached out to the American Cancer Society to learn more about her diagnosis. But her mind was still focused on helping others. “I was so nervous that I couldn’t volunteer now that I had cancer,” she says. “They said as long as I felt up to it, I could be there.”

When she attended support groups and Look Good Feel Better sessions, Kaufmann heard others facing uterine or endometrial cancer talk about their need for more support. She decided to do something about it, and began to train volunteers to talk not just about breast cancer, but about these cancers, too. She knew that the connection newly diagnosed patients feel with someone who has personally faced cancer is essential.

“I’ve found that people tend to open up more to someone who has been through it than they sometimes do to their friends and family,” she says. “You just have a common bond. One lady I worked with even said, ‘You’re my sister.’” Now, 4 years after her uterine cancer diagnosis and more than two decades after her breast cancer diagnosis, Kaufmann is still using her cancer experience to help others.

Kaufmann credits listening to her body and early detection as the reasons she is alive today. However, she credits her volunteer work for making life after cancer especially meaningful. As she says, “Life is most worthwhile when you are doing something for someone else. I know I’m making a difference and that keeps me going.”

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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