As part of our 40 for 40 series, we ask breast cancer volunteer Rita Fortune about how she got involved and her 40th Anniversary wish for SHARE.
When and how did you get involved with SHARE?
At the Making Strides for Breast Cancer walk, I met Marilyn Lewis, who was the facilitator of the support group in Little Neck, Queens. I had had breast cancer for a year and had just finished my treatments; I was still recovering from my chemo and radiation. I started going to Marilyn’s support group.
What have you done for SHARE?
Through Marilyn’s group, I met Ilene Winkler, who was then the Hotline Coordinator. She invited me to start doing work in the community along with some other women, raising awareness about SHARE’s support group and the helpline and educating people about breast cancer. I went to churches and senior citizen homes all over the community. Marilyn encouraged her support group to attend NBCC and Project Lead, so I participated in those, along with Gwen Harrison. Over time, the work in the community became bigger and needed more organization so I was made the coordinator of four ambassadors for Queens, including Gwen, my sister, and two other women named Fran and Tracey. Fran and Gwen are also patient navigators at Queens Hospital and Jamaica Hospital; they help women in the hospitals and refer them to SHARE. I’ve been a coordinator for four years.
How has SHARE helped you?
Telling people about SHARE, what it stands for and what it does, is a calling for me. By telling people about breast cancer and ovarian cancer, it helped me be more open about my own experience. It took away the stigma. SHARE has also educated me through its seminars about breast and ovarian cancers.
What is your 40th anniversary wish for SHARE?
My wish is that SHARE gets the funding it needs to keep doing good work. We’ve done a lot even in just the last five years; we’ve touched a lot of lives, especially because of the Ambassadors. We’re out in the community, putting the word out there and talking to people, and we plan to do even better in the next five years.