Roberta Hufnagel: SHARE Support Group Facilitator since 1981

roberta_SHARE_support_group_facilitator 40_for_40

When and how did you get involved with SHARE?

It was in 1981, before SHARE had an office or was anything resembling what SHARE is today. Lee Miller was leading a group for mothers and daughters with breast cancer. Although it had been 5 years since I'd had my mastectomy and chemotherapy, I asked my 15 year old if she'd like to participate, and she agreed. It was in the Lenox Hill Neighborhood Association. I enjoyed the experience very much.

I let Lee know that I was interested in being a part of the organization, and I got invited to everything. I went to a board meeting! We had monthly meetings in Blanche Greene, one of the founding member's, house. We had a telephone in her closet. We all put in 10 dollars a month to pay for the phone and people would come in once a day to listen to all the hotline calls. There was an answering machine. Then we'd get together, and somebody would return the calls and see if the callers were interested in a group. We only had one type of group back then, for newly diagnosed. That ran for six or eight weeks, sometimes, and it met weekly. One of us would take a turn leading it, and it worked pretty well.  

What have you done for SHARE? 

I led a young woman's group. I led a senior's group. I led a lesbian group at 13th Street. In 1986 or 1987, one of the board members became metastatic. She wanted a group for metastatic women, and she didn't want to lead it. So I volunteered. The group started in my apartment, and we've run it ever since, non-stop.

I also once ran a bone marrow transplant group. And at another point, a lot of the women working in the office fielding hotline calls were dealing with a lot of death. Morale was sinking. Alice asked if I would run a support group for people in our office. That was a special group, where I tried to get people to share their feelings about their own demise, not everybody else's. My theory is that unless the helpers deal with their own vulnerability and recognition of how they could be next, how I could be next, then they couldn't deal as effectively with anyone else.

What has SHARE done for you? 

I wouldn't be here if SHARE didn't continue to help me. I've never stopped living with the understanding that I could be next. And very few people get that. Working with women who feel and know they are next, I have a sense of being understood, of belonging, of sharing. That experience gives me something that I treasure every day. In the group sometimes, women will express their gratitude toward me. And I tell them that I'm as grateful to them, because they help me feel I belong somewhere with my feelings. Who can do that for me besides SHARE?

What is your 40th Anniversary wish for SHARE? 

That we would be put out of business. And barring that, that we have enough money to do whatever we want. The amazing thing to me about SHARE from its inception is its commitment to do whatever is necessary. The kindness, the total sensitivity to try to accommodate when someone is in need, to give them everything that could possibly help them. I think that is amazing and special beyond belief, and therefore I think SHARE deserves all the money in the world. 

See all the 40 for 40 series posts here!