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What's Up Magazine

Breast Cancer Survivors Offering Support

Jun 11, 2011 07:57PM ● By Anonymous

“SOS aligns perfectly with our philosophy and complements our current programs to cultivate a safe, spiritual and healing environment for women diagnosed with breast cancer while encouraging them to reach toward their future with hope,” says Mary Jane Flynn, BSN, RN, OCN, CBCN, nurse coordinator for Shore Regional Breast Center. 

Leadership for this one-to-one support program is provided by Edla Coleman, SOS coordinator and a breast cancer survivor, who works as a member of the Shore Regional Breast Center team. “Our approach to integrate into a hospital’s standard of care is based on the desire to help women through the initial shock then continue to provide them with vital support through their transition from treatment to survivorship,” Coleman explains.

SOS mentors are trained by physicians, nurses and other experts who provide an orientation to the knowledge and skills needed to offer support to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. Volunteers must be at least one year past their own breast cancer treatment and be referred by two of their physicians. Following acceptance into the SOS program, mentors also participate in educational sessions on topics such as wellness, stress management, reconstructive surgery, radiation therapy and medical oncology.

SOS mentors do not offer medical advice of any kind but are available to meet in person or by phone to give guidance and strong support to women at a time when they may be finding it difficult to be hopeful. Mentors and patients establish the extent of what may be an ever-changing relationship based on the needs of each woman from diagnosis through treatment to survivorship.

“We closely match newly-diagnosed women with SOS mentors by their similarities in age, lifestyle and stage of breast cancer so they receive the greatest insight, encouragement, practical knowledge and emotional support possible to help make the breast cancer journey less confusing and solitary,” adds Coleman.

The SOS program is sponsored by Shore Health System and funded by a grant from the Maryland Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure. “The SOS program is a wonderful way to enhance services for women living on the Eastern Shore who are facing a breast cancer diagnosis,” says Lori Yates, Eastern Shore Field Coordinator for Komen Maryland. “The success of this program during the past seven years at hospitals throughout the state speaks to the strength of the peer-mentor support model.”

Founded by survivor Denise O’Neill in 2004, Survivors Offering Support has trained more than 300 mentors, and now supports 22 percent of newly-diagnosed breast cancer patients in Maryland. In addition to peer-to-peer support, SOS offers Partner Support Workshops for spouses, partners and caregivers, as well as Transition to Wellness Workshops for survivors evolving from treatment to wellness.

The SOS program at Shore Regional Breast Center is looking for volunteer mentors. To learn more about volunteer opportunities or how to get assigned to an SOS mentor, contact Edla Coleman, SOS coordinator, at 410-822-1000, ext. 5866 or email

Shore Regional Breast Center, located at the Memorial Hospital at Easton, 219 S. Washington Street, has provided services for breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and support since 2000. For more information about Shore Regional Breast Center, call 410-820-9400 or visit