Class Notes Profile: Resourceful Survivors
After completing six months of treatment for breast cancer in December 2010, Dana Stewart ’00 ACES was told by well-meaning people, “You’re done! You’re cured! Go on with your life!”
For Stewart, then 32, putting the emotional chaos of diagnosis, mastectomy, chemotherapy and reconstructive surgery behind her wasn’t that simple.
“I crashed and burned,” Dana says. “Emotionally, I couldn’t handle it. People kept [asking], ‘Why aren’t you happy? Why can’t you move on?’ But I couldn’t.”
Now, however, she is “getting back to her life” and helping others “live life after cancer,” thanks to the Dragonfly Angel Society website (www.dragonflyangelsociety.com), which she co-founded with her mother, Shelley Rubenstein Stewart ’72 MEDIA, in February 2015.
Dana had been warned of the physical side effects of treatment. “I was prepared for all that,” she says, “but nobody told me how emotionally disastrous it was going to be. I just went through a disease that could have killed me. I struggled to find information about what to do once you’re done with treatment.”
Her mother—Dana’s caregiver from diagnosis through treatment—also experienced her share of anxiety. “I didn’t have anyone to talk to about this,” she says. “I had no idea where to go.”
So the two launched a one-stop online resource to help cancer survivors and their caregivers “figure out what they need to help themselves,” Dana says. The site features magazine articles, book recommendations, personal stories, and links to social media, advocacy organizations and health-care providers.
Dana also posts a monthly newsletter, and speaks at conferences and conventions around the nation.
“I’ve never done anything like this before, so I’m learning as we go,” she admits.
It is, Dana says, what a survivor does.