Champion Spotlight is a series that features Mayo Clinic Champions and celebrates the effect they have on people’s lives. Tony Hart, Mayo Clinic Champion specialist, talks with Champions who have provided hope for others in their own ways.
Teresa is a Champion and Mayo Clinic Connect Mentor whose diagnosis of a rare malignancy spurred her to join Mayo Clinic Connect and help others with their struggles.
TONY: Why did you decide to become a Mayo Clinic Champion and share your experience?
TERESA: I decided to share the experience of my neuroendocrine tumor diagnosis because I found it personally discouraging and frightening. As this is a rare type of malignancy, I felt alone with the diagnosis, as do many neuroendocrine tumor patients. During previous surgeries, people in my immediate support group of friends and family were totally unfamiliar with this disorder, and I felt as if they had no idea what I was facing. As a result, I felt that I needed to discuss this with others who had walked the same road. I needed to know that my confusion and concerns were understood by others.
TONY: As you’ve shared your experiences on Mayo Clinic Connect, you’ve earned the status as a Mentor there. Is there anything that compelled you to tell your story offline to others?
TERESA: I have told my story offline to others through a support group that I began at my own church. It is a support group for people who face chronic illness of different types, and we call it Living and Thriving. We all share in the feeling of often being misunderstood, and by meeting on a monthly basis, we hold each other up.
TONY: Support and community seem like an important part of your story. Is there any advice you would give to other Champions or those wanting to share their experience?
TERESA: Soon after my first post, I began to receive responses. I found a larger group of fellow patients who had been in my shoes, were able to share with me. And, from their willingness to share, I gained support and perhaps even confidence to face this knowing that I was not alone.
Going online with my story was a bit of a leap for me. This was not something I had done previously. However, the anonymity of Connect made this more comfortable. Also, the reputation of Mayo Clinic gave me more confidence that this would be a reliable and safe website. This feeling of safety and confidence has always been backed up by a great group of fellow Mentors, the moderators and, of course, the great leadership of Colleen Young, who brings so much to the workings of Connect.
TONY: What a great community you have on Mayo Clinic Connect. Is there something you find most rewarding about helping others?
TERESA: The reward I get is the opportunity to give back to others. To make a difference in the anxiety level of another person who is facing recurring malignancies, surgeries and the fear of the unknown is compelling. I understand what it has meant to me, and I choose to share that. As others have been there for me, I believe that I need to be there for the new patients who are yet to face their own health challenges. We all need support and those of us who have experienced discouragement and walked through it with the help of others are best able to provide that to others.
Learn more about Teresa and her work as a Mayo Clinic Connect Mentor in her expanded interview.
Mayo Clinic Champions love to hear what others are doing to spread hope. If you’d like to tell your story, comment below or email the Champions program, and you may be the next Champion Spotlight.