Facing the Unplanned
By Jamie Jenson | Photography by Paul Carmen Viggiano
Benedicte Doran is a planner.
Whether it’s at her job as an event planner for John Katko for Congress or at home managing the many activities in which her three sons are involved, Benedicte likes to plot things out ahead of time.
So, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2017 at the age of 48, she was understandably frightened, especially in the beginning, before she knew the plan of action.
“My personality is that once they gave me a plan, I was good,” Benedicte said. “The way that I dealt with it was, ‘OK, I need a plan.’”
The doctors’ plan was terrifying: surgery — Benedicte opted to get a double mastectomy — followed by four doses of chemotherapy every other week for two months, followed by 12 weeks of radiation.
This was not how Benedicte had planned to spend her summer, especially since her middle son, Will, was an active member of his Little League team. He was scheduled to go to Cooperstown for a weeklong baseball event Benedicte referred to as “Disneyland for kids who love baseball.”
“I didn’t want anything to be different, so I only missed two of my son’s baseball games,” she said. “We’d been planning it for so long, so I would go to the games and come back because I had started my chemo at that time, but I was trying to keep everything the same.”
While it was understandably tough when Benedicte was getting her treatment — the first few days after her chemotherapy treatments were always the worst — she tried her best to keep things business as usual, especially for her sons, Jack, 17; Will, 14; and Harry, 7.
“I didn’t want to scare them,” she said. “I didn’t want it to weigh on them too much.”
Benedicte received overwhelming support from her friends and family, especially her husband, Matt;, her mother and sister; and her boss and colleagues. One of the lessons she learned during her treatment was how to accept the help they so willingly gave.
“You always want to help more than you’re helped,” she said. “I didn’t want to be a burden to anyone.”
Friends and family cooked meals for the Dorans. People sat with Benedicte while she was getting her treatments so she wouldn’t have to be alone. Will’s coach for all-star baseball picked up Harry and let him go to all of the practices, which meant the world to Harry.
Jack, a senior at Jamesville-Dewitt High School, wanted to do something, too. So, Benedicte reached out to Rebecca Flint, who manages the Syracuse Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and Real Men Wear Pink campaigns. Benedicte met Rebecca after Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway created a Making Strides team in Benedicte’s honor.
Rebecca thought they could put Jack’s artistic abilities to good use. He designed the T-shirt they’re using for the Making Strides campaign. Benedicte thinks it was a great way to teach Jack some important lessons.
“I’m trying to turn this harder situation into something positive,” she said. “I’m teaching him about fundraising for nonprofits because I think everyone should do that in whatever their interest is.”
Benedicte is also hoping to remind people of another lesson she learned after her diagnosis and treatment, one that was hard to swallow for a planner like herself.
“I realized that if I let somebody help me at work and something doesn’t go perfectly, it’s OK,” she said. “It’s not going to be the end of the world. If something doesn’t get done, that’s OK. Everything isn’t important as you think it is when you have something looming over you.”
Learning how to let go and delegate responsibilities enabled Benedicte to keep working even while receiving treatment. Though the situation was surreal, she tried to not let it slow her down, she explained.
Being a planner helped, too.
“If you look at the statistics, most people with this particular cancer are OK,” she said. “There are different bumps but you have to understand it’s something you have to get through and try to look ahead.”
The ability to look ahead helped Benedicte maintain her positivity and sense of control over the situation. She feels that’s important for anyone who is going through a difficult time.
“Put your head down and think forward to a year,” she said. “There’s a light at the end of this tunnel.” SWM
For more information on the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and Real Men Wear Pink campaigns, visit makingstrides.acsevents.org.