Flora Goldston, a Registered Nurse who worked at Jacobi hospital for 43 years before retiring three years ago, dedicates her time to helping patients with the disease that touched her life 25 years ago.
“I try to be there for patients,” she said.
Goldston was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 1989, when she was about 40 years old.
She said a few days after she was given a clean bill of health, she found a lump in her left breast during a self-exam.
After getting the lump biopsied and receiving her diagnosis, Goldston said she decided to go through with a mastectomy, and was lucky enough not to need chemotherapy afterwards. She was closely monitored for years after the surgery, but has been cancer-free ever since.
She now shares her story and experiences with patients at Montefiore’s oncology clinic, where she works as a volunteer with the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery program.
Goldston said the program aims to let patients know what programs the American Cancer Society officers, and let them know that people care and are there for them. She said some patients are reluctant to engage with her, but when she tells them about her own experience with cancer they begin to open up.
“It’s always good to talk to someone who has gone through what they go through,” said Goldston.
She said that while she was facing treatment, volunteers with Reach to Recovery came by her hospital and provided padded bras and exercise bands to help with recovery. She said the volunteers she spoke with followed up with her and would periodically check in on how she was doing, which she appreciated.
“It’s one of the reasons I decided to become a volunteer and give back,” said Goldston. “I’m truly grateful to them for what they did for me.”
Goldston said she encourages the patients she speaks with to become volunteers in the program when they’re strong enough to give back as well.
Another way she contributes to the cause is with her church, the Walker Memorial Baptist Church, as a team for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk. Goldston helped start the team at the church almost 20 years ago, and said they raise more than $2,500 most years.
The church also hosts St. Barnabas mobile mammogram van periodically, where any woman can make an appointment to get a screening done, said Goldston. Because of her experience, Goldston recommends self-exams for women in addition to regular mammograms, and suggests that men talk to their doctor about watching for breast cancer as well.
Overall, she said she encourages people to keep an eye on their health and take care of their body.
For those already dealing with cancer, Goldston said she suggests letting the people in your life know what’s going on and being open about your experiences.
“You feel better when you talk about it,” she said.