At a young age, a personal experience with cancer humbled Danielle DiPietro and kindled her desire to help others.
“I have lost loved ones to cancer,” she said. “I understand how hard it is to receive a cancer diagnosis, and I know what it’s like to be a caregiver and watch someone so close to you experience a horrible disease.”
Shortly after graduating from college, DiPietro sought a career in patient advocacy. She joined the Pleural Mesothelioma Center in 2012.
In 2016, she earned her claims-agent accreditation from the Department of Veterans Affairs. It was a natural way for her to grow in her role. Both her grandfathers served in the U.S. Army, and she already had informal experience helping them understand and apply for their VA benefits.
Mesothelioma is a rare cancer, so affected families cannot afford to overlook any available resources. DiPietro helps patients and caregivers understand the diagnosis and find medical, emotional and financial support.
Knowing this small community needs so much help was what inspired her to get involved.
“Hearing the word ‘cancer’ is scary, and hearing the word ‘mesothelioma’ is even scarier,” she said. “From the years I have been helping patients and families, I understand how lost they feel when they are given this diagnosis. The first thing I can tell them is, ‘You’re not alone.’”
Personal and Professional Experience
DiPietro regularly travels to conferences about mesothelioma treatment to learn about research being done to help patients live longer. She has met some of the top mesothelioma specialists in the country.
Understanding how the top doctors evaluate and treat patients helps her explain the diagnosis to patients and tell them what to expect.
As a VA-Accredited Claims Agent, she can file claims for benefits on behalf of veterans and their family members. She ensures veterans harmed by military asbestos exposure receive the benefits they are entitled to.
This is a vital service, because veterans have a much higher rate of mesothelioma than the overall American population.
DiPietro’s personal experience caring for a loved one with cancer gives her a deep understanding of everything families affected by mesothelioma face. It was a sad and hard experience, but one that made her a better advocate for mesothelioma patients and families.
“We are here to help in every way possible,” she said. “We are not advocates that you just talk to once — we are here for patients and families throughout their journey. I build relationships with the people I help.”