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Surviving Breast Cancer: One Notary's story

Joan-O-Briant.jpgWhen Joan O’Briant found a lump in her breast in 2010 she tried to hide it, because she was scared.

“I knew what it was,” says the Notary from Lubbock, Texas, “but for several months I didn’t touch or acknowledge it. I blocked it out of my mind.”

But eventually, the lump became larger and more visible until Joan’s mother saw it and asked her about it. Joan broke down in tears and had to face the possibility that she had breast cancer.

“I was self-employed as a Notary Signing Agent — I couldn’t get health insurance because of a pre-existing condition, and I’d just moved to town so I didn’t have a doctor in Lubbock,” she said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do.”

However, the next day Joan received what she describes as “a miracle.” She contacted the local office of the Susan G. Komen Foundation in Lubbock, who arranged for her to get a mammogram and consult with a doctor. When the test results came back, Joan found out she did have breast cancer. But thanks to the efforts of the Komen Foundation and a state Medicaid program that helps treat breast cancer patients without medical insurance, Joan was able to undergo surgery and radiation treatments to stop the growth of her cancer. She credits her mother with saving her life by urging her to seek medical treatment and supporting her through the ordeal of her many treatments.

“I call her ‘Saint Mom,’ — at the age of 83, she was there for me with everything. She went with me to every appointment and every treatment,” Joan said.

Though she still has two more years of monitoring and treatment to go, today Joan is a successful Signing Agent and an active spokesperson in the fight against breast cancer. She volunteers her time to help other breast cancer survivors and participated in a three-state motorcycle ride to raise money for breast cancer research. She’s even reached out to signers fighting breast cancer who have seen her pink badges and Notary journal and asked her to share her experiences battling the disease.

Joan says there are many things other Notaries can do to help fight breast cancer. Aside from donations to medical research or participating in fundraising events, she says if you know someone fighting breast cancer, helping with everyday tasks can make a huge difference.

“You don’t need to ask ‘What can I do for you?’ — just go over there and do something,” she said. Driving someone to medical appointments is one way to volunteer, because often treatments leave breast cancer patients exhausted, but simple everyday tasks around the house are a big help as well, she said. “Mow the lawn, fill up the person’s car with gas, take them out for a movie,” Joan said. “One friend walked my dog for me when I couldn’t do it. It was a simple act, but it meant so much to me.”

David Thun is the Assistant Managing Editor with the National Notary Association.

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