Durham, N.C. — A breast cancer diagnosis can be a scary, lonely experience, but Duke Cancer Center in Durham honored a local volunteer who has been a source of hope and encouragement for many women.
Cindy Atkins, 53, uses her experience battling stage 4 breast cancer to help other women fighting the disease.
"With my disease, they can't cure it, but they can try to keep it under control," Atkins said.
Volunteering in the cancer center's boutique, she helps patients cope with self-image issues that often arise during breast cancer treatment.
"This is my new purpose and it's very fulfilling," she said. "It's been amazing."
The disease ended her career as a Durham firefighter four years ago, and her former coworkers attended a recent ceremony honoring her with Duke's Light of Hope award.
"(She is) always looking for some way to do something for somebody else," said Durham Fire Chief Willie Hall. "She was always glass half-full."
Ben Weast, a medical family therapist at Duke, said Atkins is a fighter.
"She is eternally hopeful. She really is what the program is all about," he said.
Atkins, a wife and mother of three, said she was very honored to receive the Light of Hope.
"There's a saying that says, 'Life is not measured by how many breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away,' and this is one of those moments for me," she said.
"I believe there is always something good that comes from something bad," Atkins added. "Even though it's hard to believe, I've seen it. I've lived it."