Odette Petersen: 25 Years with SHARE

40 for 40 Odette Peterson


As part of our 40 for 40 series, we ask board member Odette Peterson about how she got involved with SHARE and her 40th Anniversary wish for the organization.

When and how did you get involved with SHARE?

The first person I spoke with, upon leaving the radiologist's office after a routine mammogram that revealed an early stage breast cancer, was someone who answered the phone at SHARE. I was not prepared to talk to anyone I knew yet but remembered that there was an organization that had a Hotline number. I found that number in the Yellow Pages and then called. A volunteer answered the phone, listened to me, told me she too had had breast cancer, and quite miraculously, or so it seemed, my anxiety passed and I was able to then call my family. And so began my relationship with SHARE. That was twenty-five years ago!

What have you done for SHARE or in what ways have you been involved with SHARE?

After a second call to SHARE I found out that a newly diagnosed group was starting shortly. Once that group ended I attended other meetings, had my husband attend a men's group, started going to the various educational programs that were being offered, sampled the various wellness programs as they were scheduled, became involved in the advocacy movement calling for greater recognition for the special issues of people affected by breast cancer and the need for more research funding. Before I knew it I was spending more and more time at the SHARE office (at that time there was just one paid staff worker) doing anything that needed to be done, included taking Hotline calls as they came in. Doing what was done for me!

During my years at SHARE I had the opportunity to be a “Jack of all Trades,” as the organization slowly moved itself into the mature and multifaceted organization it has turned into. I was a volunteer, then staff, then volunteer again as a member of the Board of Directors. During these years I had the opportunity to take and teach the SHARE peer support model to various organizations wanting to create similar programs. Perhaps one of my personal highlights was taking SHARE's peer support model to other countries. Since I spoke Russian I was able to help women and communities in Israel, Ukraine, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia and Russia to set up their own support programs. The reception I and others received was so welcoming that it just reinforced the importance of SHARE's work.

How has SHARE helped you?

SHARE helped me from the very first call to the Hotline. It helped me through treatment as understanding my situation and options relieved me from anxiety and helped me make what I consider good decisions for myself.

Through my continued involvement as a volunteer with SHARE I discovered new areas of personal interest as well as having my communication/people skills reinforced. I learned that it was not that hard to make a difference in a person's life and in one's community when there is a will and like-minded people who will work with you. And I met many such wonderful people through SHARE.

I believe that working or being in an environment where there is illness, stress and at times death, helped my personal evolution in an important way that I was able to take into other parts of life. With awe I witnessed the courage to live, over and over again.

What is your 40th anniversary wish for SHARE?

Until such time as SHARE may hopefully no longer be needed my wish is that it be available for people to turn to and that it remain financially viable. I wish that more people know about the organization and all that it has to offer and that it remains a non-profit model to be admired and emulated.