Marilyn Lewis: SHARE Support Group Facilitator, Advocate, and LifeTime Hero

marilyn_lewis_SHARE_support_group_facilitator 40_for_40

When and how did you get involved with SHARE?

I became involved with SHARE in 1998 or 1999, when my best friend, Gwendolyn Harrison, invited me to an Educational Program at Queens SHARE. The program was coordinated by Linda Koteen. I brought a woman with me who was just diagnosed with breast cancer and who was deliberating whether to do the suggested treatment.

The combination of the questions I asked and the support I was giving this woman may have led Linda to ask me if I would like to train as a facilitator. I didn't know what a support group was, so I asked, "What does a facilitator do?"

In what ways have you been involved with SHARE?

I was then trained as a facilitator by Jane Soyer. While I was in training, I volunteered with Cheryl Rubin for the SHARE walk in Central Park, which included setting up at 5 AM and making signs. In 2000, I co-facilitated a six-session "newly diagnosed" breast cancer support group with Linda Koteen. In 2001, Mona (Simone) Solaman and I co-facilitated the ongoing Queens SHARE breast cancer support group. When Mona relocated to Florida, Linda De Santis became my co-facilitator. Later, when we had another "newly diagnosed" breast cancer support group, Peggy Kalesis became my co-facilitator of that group. Some of the most rewarding activities the ladies of Queens SHARE have participated in were a Chinese Auction; Victory Train; making a quilt; making a SHARE scrapbook; participating in "Susie's Tough Cookies" activities; and forming a Buddy System, which has evolved into lasting friendships.

During this time I also became active as an advocate in Albany under the guidance of Marcia Presky, Susan Cohen, Roberta Gelb, and Alice Yaker. In 2002 or 2003, I attended my first NBCC Conference. It was an experience and education. I encouraged members of the Queens SHARE breast cancer support group to attend the NBCC Conference and report back to the group. At one time, ten ladies from the group attended the conference! Many of those ladies went on to attend NBCC's Project Lead and now are navigators & ambassadors in their communities.

In 2005, I was chosen as SHARE's "LifeTime Hero," thanks to the support of SHARE's staff and volunteers.

How has SHARE helped you?

SHARE's staff and volunteers have made me an educated patient and advocate. In addition to names I have mentioned above, I would like to extend my gratitude to Gladys, Ivis, Marina, Donna, Christine, Jackie, Jennie, Maria, and Beth. You have helped to make me a wonderful facilitator and have supported all of my activities with the Queens SHARE support group. I must also extend a special kudo to my best friend, Gwendolyn Harrison, who was helpful when I was a facilitator and is filling my spot.

What is your 40th anniversary wish for SHARE?

My wish for SHARE is to always be there for people who are diagnosed. I want SHARE to be there to help the caregivers. My journey has been helped in so many ways by SHARE, and not necessarily by receiving: it's giving that gives me the most gratification and hope.

See all the 40 for 40 series posts here!