Upon first meeting the vibrant Dora Sanford, the last thing one expects is her status as a three-time cancer survivor. The inspiring Baton Rouge native can often be found volunteering at local nonprofits, participating in community events, and uplifting other women facing their cancer journeys.

Dora was diagnosed with stage III HER2-positive breast cancer in April of 2013, nearly six months after her mother had passed away from a similar form of the disease. To call the diagnosis a shock would be an understatement. Having experienced no prior symptoms, Dora says, “I couldn’t believe it. But cancer doesn’t care if you are a good person or not.”

In June of that year, Dora underwent successful surgery. She was then prescribed six months of chemotherapy and a year of an oral protein-blocker treatment that was intended to stop the cancer from spreading. Upon her second PET scan, Dora was confirmed to be breast cancer-free. However, her relief quickly diminished when the scan also revealed cancer in her thyroid.

“What is going on?” she thought. Dora was exhausted from treatments, and she dreaded the idea of undergoing more chemotherapy.

Through her distress, Dora persisted and eventually began her second course of treatment.  Her friend, a regular Cancer Services support group attendee, had recommended the counseling program to her fellow survivor. Sadly, it wasn’t until she passed away that Dora decided to attend Cancer Services’ Breast Cancer Support Group. “I wish I could tell her that she was right,” says Dora, “there is strength in reaching out for help.”

Dora already has a lot of experience caring for others, but her participation in the support group reminds her of the importance of prioritizing herself. “Cancer Services showed me that I’m special,” she says, “its support groups became a safe haven for me.” Dora explains that she feels free to express herself without fear of judgment. Through the support groups, she hears stories and learns valuable lessons from fellow survivors, which motivates her to continue her journey.

“When you’re first diagnosed with cancer, you feel like your life is going to end,” says Dora, “however, Cancer Services gave me hope.” Dora describes the revelation she experienced during her first support group session. “These people had cancer, and yet they were happy.” Dora was deeply moved by their joy and resilience. Eventually, she decides that she wants to inspire and uplift others as well.

Dora has gradually become an advocate for other women fighting cancer. She began participating in various programs, providing support to a network of others affected by the disease, and even making gift bags for newly diagnosed patients. With every interaction, Dora encourages others to embrace one of the most valuable lessons she learned from Cancer Services: not to give up on self-care.

In December of 2020, Dora was rushed to the hospital after a bad fall. This visit led to her diagnosis of bone cancer. Tests revealed that the breast cancer from eight years before had migrated to her spine. After everything Dora had experienced, she was prepared to re-enter this battle. Shortly after the third diagnosis, she received another successful surgery and defeated cancer once again.

Regarding how she fights her battles, Dora mentions that her twin grandchildren were born near the time of her first breast cancer diagnosis and surgery. Her desire to be in their lives and watch them grow motivates her to continue fighting. Dora says that she sticks by the scripture during times of doubt. She quotes Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”

Dora’s twin grandchildren are now ten years old, which also marks the tenth anniversary of her first surgery. According to Dora, her time is now spent enjoying life, playing with her grandchildren, and spoiling Mo, her pet Dachshund.

Thanks to community generosity, Cancer Services provides support to survivors like Dora at no cost.