When and how did you get involved with SHARE?
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, after 9/11. We lost a close friend who was a firefighter at the towers, and in the middle of that, I didn't feel I could speak out about my breast cancer. After my surgery, I lost my mother back in Japan, and while undergoing chemotherapy, I had to go back and forth to Japan to deal with inheritance problems. My having breast cancer seemed like a secondary thing. But when I lost my job, everything crumbled. I knew I had to heal myself. So I become head of a breast cancer support group at the Japanese community center.
In July 2013, I was searching for meeting space for my support group when I saw SHARE's program guide at the Japanese community center. I called SHARE's Helpline and asked if we could use SHARE's meeting room for the Japanese group I led. The answer was yes! In exchange, I became a volunteer and got facilitator training.
How have you been involved with SHARE?
Working as a part of SHARE, I now facilitate support groups in Japanese for women with breast cancer. We have a daytime group, an evening group, and a weekend group that meets every two months and offers educational programs. Over time, I have been learning more about SHARE and all of its programs. None of this work is happening in Japan or in the Japanese community here.
I also provide educational programs twice a year in spring and in fall, when the Japanese community center has its Health Week. In these programs, I try to compare what people can expect if they get treatment in Japan with what they can expect if they get treatment in the United States. There are generally two groups of people who come to us for help. One group is made up of women who have decided to live in the US after moving from Japan. The other group consists of people who are here temporarily, about 3-5 years, most likely for their husband's jobs. When these women find out they have breast cancer, they have to decide whether to go back to Japan to have treatment, or have their treatment in New York without really understanding English.
Many people tell me the educational programs I offer make them more comfortable choosing to stay in New York. I also heard one lady with breast cancer say that when her husband was offered a job in the US, they decided to come to New York because she knew about our support group.
What has SHARE done for you?
SHARE is great. By volunteering for others, by talking to others who recognize who I am and what I went through, by walking the walk with them, I healed. I'm stronger now and able to give back. SHARE really healed me. It's my fate, and I'm so glad.
What is your 40th anniversary wish for SHARE?
I always say, "I wish we didn't have to have this kind of group." But that's still a dream. For now, I think SHARE has nothing broken about it. Don't try to change it.