When and how did you get involved with SHARE?
It was 1993 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I didn't have any friends who had been diagnosed, and I knew absolutely nothing about cancer, except that people died from the disease. So in my mind, it was a death sentence. I called the American Cancer Society (ACS), and they sent me a bunch of packets that educated me quite quickly. They also referred me to SHARE, which invited me to attend a support group. It was between 5th and 6th Avenues on 43rd Street: the first location SHARE ever had. That was my first introduction to SHARE. After that, I found I needed to stop attending to sort out my life. But around 2001, I called SHARE again and asked to become a hotline volunteer. They trained me, and I've been doing the hotline (now called the "helpline") now for 14 or 15 years.
What else have you done for SHARE?
I also got involved with the LatinaSHARE group, which served women who didn't have anywhere else to go for information or camaraderie. It was a wonderful experience, led by a social worker who could explain every detail of our treatments and was a warm, caring individual. Four or five years ago, I started facilitating a Latina support group myself.
How has SHARE helped you?
Leading the group has been rewarding: seeing these women express their feelings and ask questions openly and without hesitation, knowing they are in an environment that is private and welcoming. SHARE has helped me to realize that if you help others and give back, you're going to heal in a very special way. You put your own feelings aside to try to help those who have just been diagnosed, who are hurting and frightened and don't know who to turn to. When we on the helpline can give them some reassurance -- and the most important thing, hope -- that has also helped me emotionally. I put away my fears and concerns to focus on someone else. Always, in trying to help others, you help yourself spiritually and emotionally. It's enriched my life, there's no doubt about that.
What is your 40th anniversary wish for SHARE?
SHARE has a very special gift to be able to call people back and follow them through their entire journey. I don't know of any other organization that has the time to do that. SHARE has taught us to be able to give these women that extra caring that they may not get outside of their home with other people; we've been able to give them a special experience, information, and hope. The way the helpline has developed is unique in that way: support groups can be found in many places, but I don't think anyone has been able to do a helpline the way we do. It's amazing to me that after all these years we're still getting so many calls. It's very gratifying. ACS is constantly referring people to SHARE, and it's proven that this is an organization that has been able to help others in a very successful way. So I hope that that continues, and I hope that they continue to develop programs. SHARE, especially the past few years, has also grown with their metastatic support groups, and introducing family support groups, and they're doing a great job with the webinar programming. So I hope that all continues. I think SHARE can and will be around for many years, as we have a great reputation. I thank SHARE for the privilege of being a part of this wonderful organization: I don't know of any other organization that has such magnificent women and peers as this one does, and giving of their knowledge and experience in a very positive and helpful way.