Helen Schiff: SHARE Leader and Breast Cancer Advocate

Helen_schiff 40_for_40

When and how did you get involved with SHARE?

I was diagnosed with DCIS (stage 0 breast cancer) in 1989. I  got involved with SHARE about a year later when I attended two public meetings: one was on tamoxifen, and the other was a panel discussion on alternative treatments for cancer. They were both interesting and well attended meetings. It was then that I made the decision to volunteer at the SHARE office. Eventually, I worked as a volunteer answering the SHARE helpline.

In what ways have you been involved with SHARE?

My main focus of interest was sparked by taking Project LEAD, a 5 day course sponsored by the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) which trains breast cancer activists to work with breast cancer researchers to make meaningful progress in treating breast cancer. About 15 years ago, the SHARE members who had taken Project LEAD decided to meet monthly to discuss important developments in breast cancer research, as well as the systemic barriers that prevent significant progress in treating breast cancer. SHARELeaders are still going strong today.

One of the contributions I am most proud of is being SHARE's representative in the partnership between the National Breast Cancer Coalition and Genentech, which resulted in the approval of the drug Herceptin. It has benefited so many women.

For the last 8 years, I have been working with Musa Mayer, another SHARELeader, on a website for women with breast cancer metastasized to the brain (brainmetsbc.org). It has received several million hits. In addition, I have worked with the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program, and pharmaceutical companies that I thought had drugs that could make an important impact on breast cancer treatment.

Recently, I have become a representative of SHARE on the National Breast Cancer Coalition Board of Directors. I am a strong supporter of NBCC's work to find a cure for breast cancer by 2020. My experience in participating in different types of breast cancer research is that progress is not nearly as fast as it should be.

How has SHARE helped you?

Over the years helping women with breast cancer at SHARE has given an important focus and meaning to my life. I can honestly say that these have been the most fulfilling and intellectually stimulating years of my life. I never thought I would have such a deep knowledge and interest in cancer.

What is your 40th anniversary wish for SHARE?

My wish is that SHARE will continue to exist until breast cancer is cured.

See all the 40 for 40 posts here!