The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) has selected San Antonio resident and cancer survivor Vicki Shapiro to receive the 2015 Survivor Circle Award. Ms. Shapiro will be presented with the award, including $1,000, at the Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, October 20 at ASTRO’s 57th Annual Meeting at the Henry B. González Convention Center in San Antonio, October 18-21, 2015.
The Survivor Circle Award recognizes a cancer survivor who lives in the ASTRO Annual Meeting host city and who has dedicated his or her time and energy in service and support of their local community. Ms. Shapiro is the volunteer coordinator for the Sarcoma Support Group at the Cancer Therapy and Research Center (CTRC) at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
“Ms. Shapiro’s work in helping other cancer patients is inspirational. She is a vital support to patients through the difficult-to-navigate terrain of diagnosis to survivorship with the Sarcoma Support Group,” said ASTRO President Bruce D. Minsky, MD, FASTRO. “ASTRO is honored to present Ms. Shapiro with the 2015 Survivor Circle Award.”
Ms. Shapiro was diagnosed with high-grade pleomorphic myxofibrosarcoma in April 2010 and was given a 40 percent chance of being cancer-free at 5 years. She was treated by an integrated medical team at CTRC in the Sarcoma Center, receiving 25 treatments of radiation over five weeks, and undergoing surgery in July 2010 to remove an aggressive tumor from her left leg. Following surgery, she underwent six cycles of adjuvant chemotherapy.
In July 2015, she celebrated 5 years cancer free. She is now in complete remission.
Ms. Shapiro said she became involved with volunteering because she did not know a cancer-free sarcoma survivor during her treatment, and felt that knowing someone who was in remission might have helped her through the experience. However, her doctor told her that he did know patients who had survived sarcoma, which gave her the strength and hope to continue fighting, as well as the idea that a sarcoma support group was needed. In 2010, her chemotherapy physician assistant, Elizabeth Diaz, started the Sarcoma Support Group when Ms. Shapiro was at home during treatment.
“She and I talked about a need to provide support, as her father had died from sarcoma,” Ms. Shapiro said. “As my health improved, I knew my mission was to demonstrate for others that you can survive sarcoma.”
They transitioned the group leadership to Ms. Shapiro in 2011. Ms. Diaz remains involved and supportive, and the Sarcoma Support Group continues to help patients at the CTRC. In the last four years, the group has averaged 12 people at each meeting. It has supported 20 survivors and 10 caregivers, with three five-year cancer-free survivors, 11 survivors under five years and six members who have died.
Cancer touches survivors’ lives in a multitude of ways, and the need for support continues throughout patients’ survivorship, Ms. Shapiro said.
“We say you don’t go back to being the same person after cancer, and it takes time to work through the emotional journey after the physical cancer is gone,” she said. “I volunteer because my life is enriched to experience this genuine care and concern for each other’s health and the needs of our new group members.”
For those who are seeking a cause to volunteer for, Ms. Shapiro recommends that they follow their passion, because that will be what helps them down the sometimes-challenging road of starting and maintaining volunteer work.
“To provide sustainable volunteerism, whatever you do needs to make you feel that your life has a great purpose, and you are making a difference,” she said. “Volunteering puts everyday life into perspective. I meet these amazing survivors who have endured so much and are so supportive in sharing their experiences, concern and advice to help a newly diagnosed survivor.”
For more information about ASTRO’s 57th Annual Meeting, visit www.astro.org/AnnualMeeting.
For press registration and media policies for ASTRO’s 57th Annual Meeting, visit www.astro.org/AMPress.