Ellen Silverstone: Phenomenal Emotional and Educational Experience at SHARE


When and how did you get involved with SHARE?

It was 1992, two years after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had been through this traumatic experience, and I wanted to help people. I became involved just as SHARE was launching the first SHARE-a-Walk, so I worked on that. At that point, it was Sally, Barbara, me, and maybe a handful of other people at most. For me, being with all those women became the support group I never had. I learned by coming in the back door how valuable the support was.

After the walk, Sally and I led two Outward Bound groups. We put together a group of women, mostly from SHARE, and went backpacking and hiking in Maine. Everyone had either finished treatment or was in treatment; one woman had metastatic breast cancer. It was one of the most empowering things we had ever done. You had to depend on each other, and it was challenging, but it was a powerful bonding experience. Toward the end, we climbed a big mountain, and at the top, two or three of the women took off their shirts! With their mastectomies, out in the open air. It was unbelievable.

In what ways have you been involved with SHARE?

I became a facilitator, then I trained facilitators, and then I became part of the board for a few years. I did a lot of fundraising; one of the biggest events was a major corporate dinner, where we raised close to $1,000,000. I also trained and helped set up Support Connection in Yorktown Heights--they had come to SHARE asking for guidance on using the SHARE model. I also went to the Czech Republic and Israel to do education abroad. I was heavily involved with SHARE for 10 years when it became too painful. So many women I had become close to had died, and I had to step back from it.

How has SHARE helped you?

It certainly helped me to heal emotionally from my own disease. It also opened up a whole new world to me. I'd never done fundraising before, but I learned intimately how to do that. In my former life I'd been a teacher; this opened up so many different avenues I could grow in. In those 10 years, I had more different experiences that opened up chances for growth than in my whole working career. SHARE was a place where whatever you wanted to do, you could do. You were with a group of people who all wanted the same thing: for no one else to have to use our services. These experiences get carried with you, and they translate over and over again in your life. It was a phenomenal educational and emotional experience.

What is your 40th anniversary wish for SHARE?

That no one should ever have to need their services again? Barring that, I wish that it will always be a place women can turn to: that women will always get not only a sympathetic ear, but a supportive and informative place of belonging, a place they can go to where they don't have to put on any pretenses. At SHARE, everybody understands.