Desiree Walker: Advocate and Educator, Empowering Underserved Communities

desiree_walker_SHARE_Advocate 40_for_40

When and how did you get involved with SHARE?

In December 2008, I said yes to SHARE. I had learned from Lina Jandorf, Executive Director, Witness Project of Harlem that SHARE was looking for volunteers to assist with an ovarian cancer initiative in the African American community. I immediately contacted Theresa Conti who was responsible for coordinating the outreach to express my interest. That was the beginning of our now seven year relationship.  

What have you done for SHARE? (or: In what ways have you been involved with SHARE?)

Initially, I did ovarian cancer presentations for African American communities in Brooklyn and the Bronx. Upon meeting the late Lee Miller, she told me about the Side by Side Program she created to teach medical students/fellows/doctors about the importance of Doctor/Patient Communication. When Lee asked if I'd be interested in working with her, it didn't take much cajoling. After all, I certainly had a few experiences to share and knew how important this project was and took it as an opportunity to make someone's cancer journey better. I have attended the NYS Breast Cancer Support Education Network's (NYSBCSEN) Lobby Day with SHARE. I have been part of the SHARE contingency that attends the National Breast Cancer Coalition's (NBCC) Advocacy Training & Lobby Day. I have represented SHARE at the following: NBCC's Project LEAD, Alamo Breast Cancer Foundation's (ABCF) Advocate Program at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS), American Association of Cancer Research's (AACR) Scientist-Survivor Program at their Annual Meeting and the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved Conference. I also represent SHARE as a Consumer Reviewer for the DoD's Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP). I am a member of SHARE Leaders. I am an Outreach Coordinator in the African American Ambassador Program. I facilitate two supports groups for women of African, African American and Caribbean heritage. Annually, I lend a hand at the Second Helping for Life fundraiser. I have been a spokeswoman during Breast Cancer Awareness Month and when new developments in research warrant a breast cancer survivor's perspective.

How has SHARE helped you?

SHARE continues to introduce me to an amazing group of women. My first time heading to Albany, NY from Port Authority for NYSBCSEN's Lobby Day, a woman approached me. She asked if I was with SHARE and proceeded to ask if I had ever attended Lobby Day. When I said no, she began to share her past experiences and suggested I look into NBCC's upcoming Advocacy Training. That conversation led me to becoming a patient advocate in the legislative and research communities. Alice Yaker, Former Executive Director wrote a recommendation letter for me when I applied to Project LEAD. Helen Schiff talked to me about becoming a Consumer Reviewer in the DoD's CDMRP. Ilene Winkler, Former Breast Cancer Program Director wrote my nomination letter for the DoD's CDMRP. As a Media Spokesperson for SHARE, I am able to share my journey and speak on SHARE's services. SHARE provides me with an opportunity to educate and empower the African American community regarding breast and ovarian cancers through its Ambassador Program. SHARE continues to give me a platform which ensures the voices of the underserved touched by breast and ovarian cancer are heard and the lives lost are not forgotten. Working with SHARE has crystalized my passion. My life is enriched knowing that I am making a difference in the lives of those touched by breast and ovarian cancers especially the underserved.

What is your 40th anniversary wish for SHARE?

My first wish is that the small group of thoughtful and committed people who formed SHARE to support breast cancer patients/survivors in New York City are always acknowledged. May SHARE always be a community of positive minds, motivated hearts, inspired souls who have the resources to raise the bar and its reach through winning actions that ensure diverse populations are supported nationally. Congratulations on our 40th anniversary!