"Cancer Gave Me Focus"

In 2005, Mary Studly, a photo editor for Time magazine and a single mom to Louis, a high functioning autistic nine-year-old, was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. Due to her family history, Mary opted for a double prophylactic mastectomy, though she only had cancer in one breast. She also says she opted for this treatment decision because she didn’t have confidence in her ability to detect this aggressive breast cancer on her own, despite her vigilant efforts throughout her adulthood.

Mary was always proactive about her own health, so following her diagnosis she began looking for resources. Her search led her to the Cancer Support Community of Central Indiana. Although she says many things in their lives were changing, their weekly routine at this affiliate was a constant and calming addition to their schedule. Mary and her son attended regular counseling, cooking classes, holiday celebrations and art workshops. Louis also attended Kids Connect, a program that uses play therapy to help children express their feelings, with their peers, about their parent’s cancer diagnosis. 

“The Cancer Support Community was as much a part of my medical team as my oncologists. They always understood what was coming up next for me and served as a great navigator. I found life-long friends there that I still see regularly. It was so warm and inviting, it really felt like home to us. They have an understanding of what’s going on with you, without you even having to tell them. The community has become a safe place for Louis and I, for whatever emotion; celebrating, breaking down or just sharing. When you’ve passed another check-up, people say congratulations, but CSC really knows what it means and how important it is to you. It makes me really happy to be able to give back."

In recent years, Mary has studied with Indiana University’s Center for Excellence Grant where she’s joined the Research Advocacy Network. Through her work with the program, Mary has participated in grant reviews, focus groups for clinical trials, sat on panel discussions, presented at professional advisory board meetings and lobbied on behalf of breast cancer and environmental issues. She also serves as a peer to peer counselor with the Young Survival Coalition. Her experience with cancer and her drive to give back to the cancer community has also inspired a career change for Mary, who now works with low-income, urban schools. 

“I’ve always had a drive to do what I deem valuable work, but I had done it more in the volunteer realm. Cancer has really focused my give-back spirit. I could’ve kept my job at Time and before cancer I might’ve, but now I’ve had a complete recalibration of my career and my life because of the disease. Everything has to be worth it now, which came out of my cancer journey.” 

In addition to all of her volunteer work with CSC and the cancer community, Mary decided to share her experience by joining The Breast Cancer M.A.P. (Mind Affects Physical) Project. “I wanted to give back and share my experience, in the hopes of helping others. I also felt as though the project would help me learn more about breast cancer.” Mary joined the M.A.P. Project to help make a difference for the millions of women who are affected by the disease. 

The Cancer Support Community of Central Indiana, and all CSC affiliates, offers support and networking groups, education workshops, healthy lifestyle classes and social activities. To learn more about CSC Central Indiana and their free programs, visit http://www.cancersupportindy.org/ or to find a Cancer Support Community affiliate near you, visit www.cancersupportcommunity.org/FindaCommunity

About The M.A.P. Project
The Breast Cancer M.A.P. (Mind Affects Physical) Project is a movement to identify and address the emotional and social needs that accompany a breast cancer diagnosis.  By joining this first-of-its-kind registry and sharing their breast cancer experience, survivors have a unique opportunity to help researchers better understand the full impact of breast cancer and ultimately discover innovative ways to improve the cancer journey for millions. 

Launched in May 2010 by the Cancer Support Community’s Research and Training Institute, the M.A.P. Project has over 2,800 registrants. In late Spring 2011 CSC will release its first Annual Index, a compilation of key findings from the M.A.P. Project. This report will impact the cancer community at large by highlighting the social and emotional toll of a breast cancer diagnosis and provide recommendations on how the cancer community can better serve survivors. This project is made possible through a generous grant from The Breast Cancer Fund of National Philanthropic Trust.  For more information or to join the movement, visit http://www.breastcancerregistry.org/.

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