Everyday Heroes – Cancer Survivor Story: Maggie Richmond

Name: Maggie Richmond
Age: 28
Career: Registered Dietitian specializing in eating disorders and sports nutrition. I currently work with a behavioral health hospital system in Appleton, Wisconsin called Rogers Memorial Hospital working specifically with eating disorders in addition to a few select mental health disorders, including OCD, PTSD, depression, and anxiety.
Interesting Fact: I have worked for the last 5 years for the Green Bay Packers organization under their lead dietitian, assisting with implementing the individualized meal plans for both the players and coaching staff. My favorite players to work with thus far were Donald Driver and Charles Woodson!

How were you impacted by cancer? I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma when I was 21 years old and since that time have had 15 surgeries removing both cancerous and pre-cancerous tissue. At the time I felt blindsided by this information; I didn’t think that being diagnosed with cancer would happen to a college student, but rather something a person struggles with later on in their life. I spent a great deal of time going through various emotions: anger, frustration, sadness, disappointment, etc.

What ways did you cope? After spending time working through the emotions, I came to the realization that I fell susceptible to behaviors that put me at a higher risk of developing skin cancer. For example, I’m naturally fair skinned, I had received several sunburns growing up, and I used tanning beds. Because I was young, my doctor had comforted me stating that these behaviors didn’t 100% cause my melanoma to occur, but rather I was at a higher likelihood for this disease due to my genetics. I still felt guilty that potentially I could have prevented this from occurring, or at least occurring at such a young age. This became a driving force for me to share my story with others, in the hopes that it would prevent younger individuals from engaging in these same behaviors. Sharing my story allowed me to cope through the emotions that I was feeling, because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to change my past decisions, but I had the power to educate others on the importance of proper skin health.

What support did you personally receive? I received support from a few different outlets, but the most important factor was my family’s support during this time. When I was diagnosed, I was in a summer school course that I was far enough into that I couldn’t drop it without being penalized for the adjustment. After my two initial surgeries to remove the cancerous tissue, I had difficulty walking and needed assistance with crutches. My mom took time off from her job and stayed with me until my course was finished. She would come with to classes and sit out in the hallway with ice packs ready to use to reduce the swelling in my legs. Without my parent’s assistance, I would not have been able to continue successfully in the course or through the healing process as a whole. The second outlet that became a significant support system was working with the Breast Cancer Family Foundation through the Green Bay area. I became a “Survivor Speaker” for their group and traveled to schools sharing my story with their presentation. This became extremely therapeutic in addition to receiving educational materials from this Foundation. Another outlet that I found beneficial was the support groups provided on UW-Green Bay’s campus through the Colleges Against Cancer organization. I was able to talk with others who had either gone through a cancer experience personally or had family members struggling through the battle. This allowed me to feel like I was a part of a community.

What advice would you offer to someone who is currently battling cancer? There are a plethora of thoughts and words of encouragement I would like to share, but to keep it simple, it would be that you are absolutely NOT alone and you have a community surrounding you for support. Hearing the word cancer being associated with you or someone near to you is heartbreaking and brings up an assortment of emotions and anxieties. There are resources out there meant to put the puzzle pieces back together during this rollercoaster of a life event. This battle should never be fought alone!

Anything else? Here are a few resources that assisted me during this progression into recovery. I hope it aids others the way it benefited myself and family members!

https://bcff.org/

https://www.melanoma.org/

http://www.annshope.org/

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