Receiving a cancer diagnosis shakes you to the core and it may feel like you will never pick yourself back up. While it is very true that a battle with cancer will change your life forever, you can choose whether to use your experience to empower others with the strength you have gained, or whether to dwell on your losses and suffering. When in the midst of this pain, becoming socially active is probably the last thing on your mind. You are struggling to make it day by day and dealing with both the emotional and physical trauma that accompanies a fight with cancer. And when you are in the toughest periods of the struggle,a support group may be the maximum involvement you can handle.

However, as you emerge and realize that you are indeed a survivor, you come to a crossroads where you choose how your experience will shape you. Will you come out as a victor, ready to empower other women with the fortitude that you gained from your struggle? Or will you dwell on your losses and choose to see your life as diminished because of your difficult experiences?

The truth is, choosing to reach out beyond yourself benefits you too. Many studies show that volunteering or becoming socially active not only helps others, but also helps the person involved to feel more connected, combats depression and may even be linked to physical benefits. Getting socially involved takes your mind off your own worries and connects you with others with a similar goal or shared struggle, giving you a sense of purpose that you may feel you previously lost.

When you are hurting, or when you are still recovering, it’s far too easy to get trapped in the cycle of dwelling on your own pain or suffering, both of which are very real. However, the ability to use your pain to sow into others’ lives and to use your own understanding of suffering to strengthen them is incredibly powerful, impacting your life forever and leading to deep friendships. It may also give you a voice in decisions that could impact you and others like you.

You are not just another number or a statistic to be quoted. You are strong and have the right to work towards a better future for you and for women who are also at risk. You don’t have to passively wait while leaders make decisions about yours and others’ health. You also can’t count on others to educate the women in your community, as there is no better educator than someone who has been through it. So, there is no better time to begin making your community a better place for other survivors, other women struggling with breast cancer, or just all women who could eventually be at risk.