Betty Reiser: SHARE’s First Ovarian Cancer Program Director

betty_reiser_ovarian_cancer_program_director 40_for_40

When and how did you get involved with SHARE?

I first came to SHARE as a volunteer in 1991 after attending one of its early walks in Riverside Park. I served as a co-facilitator of its ovarian cancer support group. I returned again in 1994, this time to stay, in order to "give back" for my then 22 year survival from ovarian cancer and 20 year survival from thyroid cancer.

In what ways have you been involved with SHARE?

Initially, I was a hotline volunteer. While there, I attended a program committee meeting where a discussion was taking place about starting a one day a week ovarian cancer program. After listening to the description of the person they wanted to head it, I offered my services. Professionally at that time I was a special projects consultant; I was a long term survivor; I had been a clinical social worker; I had been a program planner dealing with education and women's issues. I was asked to take on the role. Bess Myerson, a former Miss America, also a long time survivor, was a volunteer at SHARE at the time. Interested in developing a full time ovarian cancer program, she offered to fund the start of what became SHARE'S Ovarian Cancer Program. I was invited to become its first director, to develop it along similar lines to the Breast Cancer Program offering a hotline, support groups, education programs and wellness programs.

As I researched similar programs nationwide I discovered that SHARE would become the first organization in the country to offer these types of comprehensive services for ovarian cancer survivors and their families. We subsequently became the source for technical assistance when other groups began to form their own local organizations. From this early period as ovarian cancer issues began to become more recognized by the medical community and the public at large, the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance was founded by several women who by now headed ovarian cancer programs throughout the country. I, representing SHARE, served as a board member, as did the others.

Another major concern of mine was how the detection of ovarian cancer through the recognition of its symptoms for early diagnosis could be achieved. In addition to my responsibilities for the implementation of the overall program, I developed Project S O S. One of the things SHARE's Ovarian Cancer Program emphasized was early detection of the disease even though the medical community claimed there were no early symptoms. I wanted to shake up this belief so I proposed that women with ovarian cancer tell their stories to the medical community so that doctors could hear first hand about their experiences with the disease. We made it happen and this program became integral to the work we did.

A "labor of love" which SHARE supported and encouraged was my volunteer work on behalf of good nutrition. I was "the nutritional pest" who believed that nutrition played a vital role in strengthening the immune system as an adjunct to fighting disease and I was quite vocal about it. I became a part of the wellness programs, leading workshops and educational discussions whenever possible.

How has SHARE helped you?

There was something very special about all of us working together for a common goal through the combination of the personal and the professional. If it was not for SHARE, I do not believe I would have become involved in ovarian cancer issues in the way I did. My awareness would not have been developed enough to create the innovative kinds of programming I subsequently was able to do. Everything that happened to me during the years I was in the ovarian cancer community was enabled by my involvement with SHARE. I was at a fairly advanced age when I started at SHARE. I can very candidly admit that it was some of the best work I have done in my life. It became a passion which still engages me and led to my next journey with the development of the program Survivors Teaching Students: Saving Women's Lives under the auspices of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.

What is your 40th anniversary wish for SHARE?

That SHARE continues to be there for women and their families to do its important and necessary work, to grow as it is needed and to be a part of the solution for the eradication of breast and ovarian cancer and ultimately "to be put out of business."

1 Comment

  1. Robert Bersson

    Fabulous, Betty!

Comments are closed.