Getting Involved: Leslie Wilson
Support groups, cooking, career counseling, painting, financial resources, conferences, yoga, even belly dancing — if it’s a resource for women with breast cancer in the Philadelphia area, there’s a good chance Leslie Wilson has used it.
Leslie, 55, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, at age 49. Soon after, she had a lumpectomy. But later that year, the cancer returned in her breast. She then had chemotherapy, another lumpectomy and radiation. In 2012, Leslie had an oophorectomy, removal of the ovaries, to lower her risk of ovarian cancer. And though the cancer was called triple-negative, meaning it doesn’t need the hormones estrogen or progesterone or the HER2 protein to grow, she also took hormonal therapy. One of the tests on her pathology report showed the cancer to be slightly hormone-sensitive, so her doctors thought she might benefit from the treatment.
All that treatment was hard on Leslie, physically, emotionally and financially. Originally from Philadelphia, she had been living in Boston for years. She moved back to be closer to family during her treatment. But, always a very independent person, Leslie didn’t want to burden her family. And most of her childhood friends had moved away.
Leslie found comfort in Philadelphia’s breast cancer community. It provided her emotional and social support, and many no- or low-cost resources to help her during treatment, and beyond. She first started going to events recommended to her at her medical center. Those led her to one organization. And then to another. She got on different email lists, where she’d hear about more programs. Her favorite programs focus on exercise, meditation and healthy eating. They help her feel less stressed. Those programs are also where she’s made the most personal connections with other women.
In the beginning she went to most of these events alone. But she started to meet more and more people and create a community of support.
“At first it was kind of daunting because I didn’t really have a connection [at these events]. But I still went,” she says.
Leslie applied for, and received, a Cis B. Golder Quality of Life Grant from LBBC. This grant helps women living in the Greater Philadelphia area who are in treatment for breast cancer and are facing financial hardship. Funds go directly to a vendor for expenses such as rent, utilities, transportation and child care. She began helping out at LBBC programs.
“Leslie is a regular LBBC program participant and volunteer,” says Catherine Creme Henry, MA, outreach coordinator at LBBC. “She shares everything she learns as she advocates for herself and others. I can always count on Leslie to step up or find me a friend when I need a volunteer or speaker for a program.”