Volunteer Spotlight: Claire Spera
Volunteers make the work the Living Beyond Breast Cancer staff does every day possible. From in-office support to event staffing and peer helpline calls, people like you help us strive toward our vision of a world where no one with breast cancer feels uninformed or alone.
To celebrate the people who devote so much of their time to LBBC’s programs and resources we’ve started Volunteer Spotlight, a series to share more about who they are and why they do what they do.
Claire Spera, 32, of Austin, Texas was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer in 2014. She is a Living Beyond Breast Cancer Young Advocate.
What’s your favorite thing about volunteering in your community?
The most personally rewarding aspect of volunteering in the breast cancer community is being able to give other women hope. When you’re confronted with a year-plus of treatment and recovery that includes chemotherapy, invasive surgery, radiation, and hormone-blocking therapy, it can be very difficult to feel confident that you’re going to get through it all. When I can tell someone, “I’ve been there,” and they say, “I would have never known,” because they see a healthy person with hair living life to the fullest — that’s huge. When I can see their outlook shift, even just for a moment, I feel I’m using my experience to make a difference in someone else’s life.
What’s the most unique volunteer activity you’ve ever done?
The most unique volunteer activity I’ve ever participated in was serving as a model for Art Bra Austin, the annual signature fundraiser of my community’s Breast Cancer Resource Center. BCRC provides no-cost patient navigation services, support groups, educational seminars, financial assistance, and more to those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, whether you received the diagnosis yesterday or over 20 years ago. Art Bra raises one-third of BCRC’s annual operating budget, so it’s a critically important event for the nonprofit. BCRC puts out a call for artists to create wearable “art bras,” and the models are all clients of BCRC. The models have personal fundraising pages in the weeks leading up to the event, and then the bras are auctioned off the night of the runway show.
I’ve participated as a model in Art Bra three times. The first year, I wore a bra created by a fellow breast cancer survivor who received her diagnosis by telephone while she was on her way to see the musical “Wicked”. She created a “Wicked Witch” bra, and so I was painted green head to toe for the big night! I’m a longtime flamenco dancer and teacher, so the second year one of my flamenco students made a black-and-red bra and skirt for me, complete with Spanish fringe. The third year, I wore a peacock-themed bra that I costumed with a peacock-feather skirt. In addition to modeling and fundraising for Art Bra, I have also helped BCRC with its marketing efforts for the event by serving as the chair of the Writing Committee for 4 years.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself!
It wasn’t “fun” at the time, but it makes for an interesting story. When I was 11 years old, I had a broken foot for a year before we realized it was broken! I was performing on a bouncy parade float and landed on the side of my foot. Scar tissue grew around the bone, so eventually I was able to walk and even dance on it. I didn’t discover it was broken until a year later when I began taking a modern dance class. When I began dancing barefoot, the scar tissue holding the bone in place started to break up, and I was back at square one. An x-ray confirmed that indeed, it had been broken for a year. I’ll never forget the critical look on the doctor’s face when he delivered the news to my mom. I spent the summer in a boot and on crutches, and thankfully it healed normally.
When you’re not volunteering, what are people likely to find you doing?
During the day you’ll find me at work — the office of plastic surgeon Christine Fisher, MD. She was my breast reconstruction surgeon and recruited me to join her team after I was done with treatment. I’ve been her communications director and patient care coordinator for our reconstructive patients since 2016. In the evenings, you’ll find me at the dance studio. I’ve been a flamenco dancer for 25 years and have taught and performed with A’lante Flamenco since I moved to Austin in 2010. The great thing about flamenco is that it’s highly portable — as long as you have a board to dance on, you can do it pretty much anywhere! Some of my favorite gigs have been at food and wine festivals, company parties, and even people’s weddings. We get hired to perform at all kinds of events, plus we put on our own theatrical productions.
Thank you to Claire and all of our volunteers. If you would like to volunteer for LBBC, visit on our page on volunteering.