'Being diagnosed . . . has taught me all about giving'

Caryn Kaplan: "So many are in need. And, yes, one person can make a difference."
Caryn Kaplan: "So many are in need. And, yes, one person can make a difference."
Posted: October 11, 2012

Through Oct. 17, Philly.com/health and The Inquirer will mark breast cancer awareness month by publishing a profile a day of transformative moments reported by patients. The series will culminate in a special Philly.com/Inquirer/Daily News section Oct. 18 and can be viewed at www.philly.com/breastcancer.

"I remember the day that my phone rang," said Caryn Kaplan of Langhorne, "an ordinary workday. I learned that my breast cancer had returned and metastasized to my liver and bones.

"It was a surreal moment," she added. "My doctor, with his gentle and reassuring words, comforting me, my mind drifting and hands trembling as he spoke.

"I have been battling this disease for a very long time," Caryn says, "so long that I seem to have lost track of time. My oncologist and I went back through my files, which by now you need real muscles to pick up."

Caryn was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer almost 15 years ago, at age 38. She had the malignant lump removed, followed by chemo and radiation. She worked through it all.

"Every six months, I went for my checkup," she recalled. "At the beginning of my five-year checkup, my surgeon and I hugged as we celebrated my five-year anniversary. But during my exam, my doctor said my breast didn't look right, and two minutes later, I had a needle biopsy scheduled. It came out positive. I had a mastectomy, followed by chemo again.

"As my history would predict, just past my next five-year checkup, I discovered that my cancer had metastasized.

"I am in treatment, settled into my 'new normal.' "

Part of that new normal has been to become a "giver."

"Early-stage cancer taught me endurance and all that surrounds that strong word," she said.

"Being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer has taught me all about giving. Another strong word. Giving of myself to others, making myself available, and paying all the lessons I have learned forward. It is a gift that I truly found and one that I am so grateful for.

"So many are in need," she said. "And, yes, one person can make a difference. As I have experienced myself!

"For 10 years, I had been a recipient of people giving completely of themselves. People were always there for me, physically and mentally. Dinners, friends lying in bed with me, late-night talks. It was now my turn.

"I started with volunteering with different organizations and becoming very involved in them. I started with JDRF, helping a friend whose daughter was a juvenile diabetic help run a walk in Bucks County. Our walk has now grown to an amazing 3,000 walkers. I love the work and how it helps those in need.

"At the point when I started to volunteer for JDRF, I felt like I wasn't ready to deal with breast organizations. I was coping with lots of testing and dealing with the emotions of metastatic. But the thrill of volunteering got my juices going, and now I am ready to tackle whatever I can do to help people.

"Breast cancer has became my mission. I am volunteering for Living Beyond Breast Cancer [in Haverford], in which I have met the most amazing people. Not only do I volunteer, but my door is always open to those who need."

- Michael Vitez

Contact Michael Vitez at mvitez@phillynews.com

or 215-854-5639.  

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