From patient to mentor: 3 inspiring Mayo Clinic stories

From patient to mentor: 3 inspiring Mayo Clinic stories

A serious health condition changes you. It can bring its fair share of pain and isolation. But it might also inspire you, and drive your sense of purpose and connection.

That's exactly why many Mayo Clinic patients have spent the months and years since their diagnoses supporting people with similar health challenges. Meet three of these Mayo Clinic Champions: Teresa, Linda and Terri. They have each become leaders, online and in the real world, by offering an understanding ear, practical advice and inspiration.

First, they joined Mayo Clinic Connect, an online health community where people from around the world share advice and support — whether or not they ever seek care at Mayo Clinic.

Then, these three took a step farther by joining the Mayo Clinic Champions program. They volunteer their time online (and sometimes off) to share their stories, spread knowledge and empower other patients as they go through challenges.

"I needed to know that my confusion and concerns were understood by others."

Teresa, Mayo Clinic patient and Champion

The power of telling your story. Teresa came to Mayo after being diagnosed with a neuroendocrine tumor (NET). She hadn't been able to find others with this rare tumor locally, so she went online for community. There, she found Mayo Clinic Connect, and with it, people who understood the struggle.

Teresa found a sense of relief in reading the stories of people with similar diagnoses. Even with supportive family and friends, she had felt alone with her diagnosis. "I needed to know that my confusion and concerns were understood by others."

Teresa chose to pay it forward by sharing her own story on Mayo Clinic Connect. She became a mentor, welcoming new people to the community and encouraging them to share their experiences.

She knows the power these stories can have: helping people feel supported, validated and less alone with whatever they face.

"I can give other people hope."

Linda, Mayo Clinic patient, Champion and lung cancer advocate

Community helps you share joy: After surviving lung cancer, Linda Wortman threw herself into helping others. From organizing races that fund lung cancer research, to advocating for patients on Capitol Hill, to connecting with lung cancer survivors online, she's committed.

But Linda also works hard to live life on her terms. Since her surgery, she's run a 5K race in every state in the U.S. She's also summited Mount Kilimanjaro. She does this for herself, but she also hopes it helps others by inspiring them to go after what they want. That's why she puts her victories online.

"I can give other people hope. And with hope, you can give them an avenue to walk so they can have a great quality of life," she says.

Not ready to climb a mountain? Inspiration and strength can come from everyday successes, too. Sticking to an exercise routine, following your quilting passion or sharing precious moments with loved ones. These are all worthy of celebration — and can spread hope to others who see your story.

"My way of helping is by educating patients on how to advocate for themselves ..."

Terri, Mayo Clinic patient and Champion

Sharing knowledge helps others: You don't have to be a medical expert in your condition to share what you know. You're an expert in living with it, and that means you have an incredible amount to share with others.

Terri, another mentor on Mayo Clinic Connect, came to the community because of a chronic lung disorder. Now, she spends hours each week reading people's comments, connecting them with research and giving advice.

"My way of helping is by educating patients on how to advocate for themselves and manage their illness. Most patients that come to Connect face serious, sometimes life-threatening illnesses. Who wouldn't feel proud to walk beside them?"

Terri has seen people's lives improve from the advice they get from other patients on Mayo Clinic Connect. And she's witnessed patients who were once overwhelmed and terrified become newly empowered through the knowledge and community she helps to share online.

Find your place

If you're looking to connect with and support others, Mayo Clinic Connect is one of many communities, online and off, that could benefit from what you have to share. You won't know what kind of connection and fulfillment it could bring you until you jump in.