Bonnie Millen of Huntington has always been an independent person, but she reaped a huge life lesson after being diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2011. “I am the type to do things on my own. I have difficulty asking for help, but I learned to accept the support of my community. After her double mastectomy, that support came from members of a local swimming enthusiast group, which Millen is a member of, who called themselves the “West Neck Pod”. She says after the surgery, the group set up a schedule of home-cooked meals delivered to her for an entire month. Others drove her to and from medical appointments. Well-wishers sent her cards and offered words of comfort and support.

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All of these expressions of good-will and generosity helped her get through cancer, which runs in her family. Her grandmother had it, and her mother passed away from the disease at 49. “With my family history, I always had a fear of getting breast cancer,” she says. But once diagnosed, she became proactive and fought it valiantly; understanding that modern medicine has made great strides and you can overcome the disease.

“It’s empowering to go back to my daily activities and I’m really thankful for where I am,” says Millen, adding that she’s also extremely appreciative of the support from the people in her life who rallied when she felt most vulnerable.