In 2004, Paula Benoist-Falwell felt a lump in her breast and feared the worse, but with no insurance, she was unsure how she could afford to get a breast exam. After doing some research, she found a women’s health clinic that provided her with a free breast exam in addition to doctor referrals, based on exam results. With her referral in-hand, Paula visited the doctor to learn that she had Stage IIb breast cancer.
At the time of her diagnosis, Paula had no emotional support, but knew how important it was for her to keep her spirits high and maintain a positive outlook on life. Paula sought psychological therapy through a clinic that offered it on a sliding scale, while receiving hospice care, which helped her with rides to and from the hospital. It was through this hospice care that in 2008 Paula found out about The Wellness Community (TWC) of Greater Washington, DC.
In March of that year, Paula began regularly attending TWC classes, beginning first with Tai Chi, and later trying anything from Pilates and yoga to working with a nutritionist and journaling about her own personal experiences with breast cancer. For Paula, this support was in many ways her saving grace.
While Paula had a great circle of friends, they were often busy with their own professional and personal lives, and were not always able to offer her the encouragement and help that she needed on a day-to-day basis. With the help of TWC, Paula was able to get almost anything she needed, all while being around warm and caring people who truly understood what she was going through.
But beyond this, Paula was able to find fulfillment in offering support to others facing similar situations. “There are days when you need answers for yourself, but once you have an answer, the best thing to do is share it with someone else,” she says. For Paula, the desire to offer emotional support came naturally, as she herself had none at the time of her diagnosis. It wasn’t until discovering TWC that Paula received the care and help she needed to face her cancer diagnosis head-on. It was exactly this support that she attributes to being able to live better with her disease.
Having experienced the impact of breast cancer first hand, Benoist-Falwell joined the Breast Cancer M.A.P. (Mind Affects the Physical) Project to help make a difference for the millions of women who are affected by the disease.
The Cancer Survivor Registry’s Breast Cancer M.A.P. (Mind Affects the 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, women 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. Initiated by the Cancer Support Community’s Cancer Survivorship Research and Training Institute, the M.A.P. 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 www.breastcancerregistry.org.