Terri is a Champion and Mayo Clinic Connect Mentor who was looking for answers and community after her diagnosis. She’s now the one providing strength to others.
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.
TONY: You’ve been a Mentor on Mayo Clinic Connect for over a year now, how did you get started?
TERRI: As a patient diagnosed with bronchiectasis and presenting with avium mycobacterium infection, I sought online support on Mayo Connect. At that time, I was frightened and searching for answers as to how to manage this disease.
I was warmly greeted by a mentor named Katherine. And, soon, my fears were being replaced with knowledge. Katherine used to always say, "Knowledge is power." She was so right. She taught our group how to be our own best medical advocate. Sadly, we lost our dear Katherine in 2017. Because of my many posts on Connect, I was asked if I would be her successor. Though her shoes were huge to fill, I felt honored to step in.
TONY: You’ve certainly done your part to return kindness as her successor. Why did you decide to become a Mayo Clinic Champion and share your experience on Connect?
TERRI: I have been battling a rare lung disease for the past thirty years, most of those years I went without a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. By 2013, my lungs had deteriorated to the point of possibly needing a double lung transplant. That was the year I looked to the Mayo Clinic for help. I had read online that they were the best medical institution to go to for difficult health issues. I began treatment there; and they were able to divert the need for the transplant. The treatment plan also increased my quality of life ten-fold.
Being a patient at the Mayo was a real life changer; for that, I am eternally grateful. To express my gratitude, I became a Mayo Clinic Connect Champion and Mentor. It is my way of giving back. I want others to have a chance at improving their health and in some cases; survive their illnesses. My way of helping is by educating patients on how to advocate for themselves and manage their illness. I also spread the word about the Gold Standard of care that can be found at Mayo Clinic.
TONY: Being a mentor feels like a great fit for you. Is there anything that compelled you to tell your story offline to others?
TERRI: It is important to share experiences that help others, especially when it comes to their well-being. I have shared my story of illness, recovery and living with chronic disease many times on Mayo's online Connect group. Besides this worldwide community, I also share with my local community. I attend the Better Breathers Club that meets once a month at a local hospital. It is hosted by the American Lung Association. I chaired a meeting for them this year, and my story served as a beacon of hope in trying to live a better quality of life with lung disease.
TONY: What stands out with Champions and Mentors to you?
TERRI: They have a big heart and are gracious to take the time to be there for others.
TONY: Is there something you find most rewarding about helping others?
TERRI: You know it is not as easy as one might think to be on medical disability. I know that, for me, I was feeling a lack of self-worth. I questioned how I could fit purpose into my life again. Mentoring for Mayo was my answer. This has been the most rewarding thing I have ever done outside of motherhood. When I read from Connect members that their life has improved due to suggestions found on our site, I am happy. When I witness a turnaround of a terrified patient who becomes calm because they have gained better tools to deal with their illness, my heart swells. Most patients that come to Connect face serious, sometimes life-threatening illnesses. Who wouldn't feel proud to walk beside them?
Learn more about Terri 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.