As part of our 40 for 40 series, we ask LatinaSHARE facilitator Jennie Colon about how she got involved with SHARE and her 40th Anniversary wish for the organization.
When and how did you get involved with SHARE?
My cousin, who had breast cancer before me, told me about SHARE when I was in treatment for the disease about 15 years ago. SHARE referred me to a support group at Albert Einstein Hospital in the Bronx. It appealed to me, so I kept going.
In what ways have you been involved with SHARE?
My support group facilitator, Sally, spoke to Ivis Sampayo, then director of LatinaSHARE, about me because she thought I would be a good candidate for working with SHARE. Ivis then invited me to a party for LatinaSHARE volunteers. At the party, Ivis asked me to become a volunteer on the helpline. I then received training in how to handle helpline calls and was placed with another volunteer to work the phones. Grace Munoz helped show me the ropes a little, too; it was very different in real life than it was in the training. Barbara Krauser, the helpline director, sat in the same office room as I did. A lot of knowing how to talk to callers was just common sense, in addition to what the training taught.
Through Ivis, I attended and helped out with programs for our Spanish-speaking population. Eventually I was trained to facilitate support groups, and I began leading them in both English and Spanish. I got to work in St. Barnabas, Lincoln, and Albert Einstein Hospitals. I also answered the helpline calls in both English and Spanish.
I also did outreach, and went into the community with another volunteer to meet with doctors about the ovarian program. I was involved with that until SHARE was able to create a separate unit, with a separate identity, for the ovarian cancer participants.
Later on, it was a great privilege to be honored by SHARE, and the Latina group in particular, with the Alexandria Colon Latina Foundation Award. Alexandria Colon set up SHARE’s Spanish groups, and she was the first person to push to fill the needs of Latina women with breast cancer. I wasn’t expecting it, but I can’t tell you how excited and happy I was to be recognized. I did put in a lot of work.
How has SHARE helped you?
SHARE has helped me to be able to give of myself to other women who haven’t been diagnosed and who know nothing about breast cancer. If you don’t have breast cancer, you don’t really know what it’s like. Working with the groups opened up a whole new world to me, as it does to other women who are diagnosed, about medicine, about treatment, about the different kinds of breast cancer. If you’re interested in learning about your health, there’s no better way to do it than by going to the groups and talking to other women who have been through it or who are going through it. And the women who come feel better about themselves. Not only do they become educated, but they come away with hope that they can live through it.
What is your 40th anniversary wish for SHARE?
I’m so happy SHARE has come such a long way. 40 years of being in business says a lot about them. I would like the Latina population to be encouraged to participate more in SHARE’s programs, to become more educated about the disease.