During her annual medical exam in June 2001, Sally Scanlon found out that she suffered from breast cancer stage II at age of 45. She decided to start chemotherapy which lasted from July to September, and then began a 7-week course of radiation in November. Expectedly, she experienced a lot of nausea and slept a lot, but over the course of her treatment Scanlon tried to stay positive.
“I didn’t want to hear about the worst-case scenarios,” Sally said.
She leaned on her family and church family. “My husband, Rob, was so great through the whole experience. He even shaved my head when my hair started to fall out,” she recalled.
Sally also started attending the American Cancer Society Look Good, Feel Better classes which offers beauty tips to cancer patients to help them feel good about how they look during chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
“I was so impressed with the class and the people I met there. So when I found out that the American Cancer Society was doing a walk in my area – the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event in Providence – I signed up.”
She met with the participants every Saturday and found out that the walk also had great benefits, “I discovered there were huge benefits to exercising,” Scanlon said, “I’ve since lost 50 pounds. But the mental benefit has been even more important. It is such a big stress release.”
Sally also found out about the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery program where she met with cancer survivors who offered emotional support and guidance to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients.
In 2004 she became a Reach to Recovery program volunteer and eventually found out about a study called Moving Forward Together which cause was to boost exercise among Reach to Recovery participants.
“I saw the woman I was counseling get a lot of the same stress relief from exercise,” she says. “Even though I was the one in the counselor role, it helped motivate me to stay on track with my own exercise.”
Her advice to women who are newly diagnosed: get out there, get online, and talk to people.
“I didn’t know anyone who had cancer when I was first diagnosed,” she said. “Now my friends call me the ‘cancer magnet’ – I meet and talk to people with cancer all the time. Get in touch with the American Cancer Society. Get online. Talk to people. It really helps.”
Today, aged 55, she is helping other women through the disease by motivating them to exercise.