To celebrate the 25th anniversary of LatinaSHARE, we are telling stories of women who have turned to LatinaSHARE over the years and helped make LatinaSHARE into the thriving and critically important program it is today.
1. What was it like when you were first diagnosed? What resources did you access?
My gynecologist requested that I get a baseline mammogram when I was 35. During that time, I was a single parent raising a son, working full time and attending college part-time. This made my schedule extremely busy, so I did not get it done. When I returned for my annual check at the gynecologist at age 36, he asked where my mammogram was, I told him my schedule was too busy. When I went back the next year, he asked again, “Where is your mammography?” My response again was that I was very busy. When I turned 38, I finally got it done.
When my gynecologist received the report and x-ray, he called to say that I needed to report to the office right away. He showed me the x-ray of my right breast and explained that there were many calcifications, and asked if I had a family history of breast cancer. At the time I knew of none. He said not to worry, but he suggested I see a breast specialist, and I did.
The breast specialist began seeing me once a month to perform a breast examination until I relocated to a different state. Around three months later, I was laying down on my sofa reading a magazine; the magazine fell on the lower part of my right breast, and when I went to pick it up I brushed a lump that was there and panicked. I contacted the local breast specialist my NYC specialist had recommended, and he told me to go to his office first thing in the morning. I ran there.
He did a needle biopsy, and two days later I was called into his office again and told to bring someone with me. When we arrived, the doctor confirmed that the biopsy was malignant. I went into a hysterical rage and told him it had to be a mistake, and that he was a liar. He suggested I see another breast specialist for different opinions, and after seeing five different specialists, they all concluded that it was cancer and that a mastectomy was the right choice for me.
After surgery, I was given 12 chemotherapy treatments within 6 months, all while attending cancer support groups. However, I decided to return to NYC to stay with friends and family because the chemotherapy treatments depleted me of energy
2. How did you get involved with LatinaSHARE? How did your involvement change over time?
When I got back to NYC, I was told to contact LatinaSHARE. I started attending Spanish-speaking support groups facilitated by Alex Colon and wellness classes given by Roberta Shine. I also attended educational programs. Since then, I owe my allegiance to LatinaSHARE for all the support I received during my most difficult moments. I have been part of the LatinaSHARE family for 30 years in many different capacities, and I always speak to others about the benefits of support groups, wellness, and educational programs given by SHARE.
3. Why is LatinaSHARE so important?
The value of providing support groups, educational and wellness programs to Latina women is priceless, even for Latina women who are bilingual like me, or who are just more comfortable speaking their native language. No matter what country Latina women come from, LatinaSHARE embraces their culture and traditions and provides them the opportunity to express themselves. The SHARE and LatinaSHARE program model of having survivors facilitate breast and ovarian cancer support groups is important because it shows women the "face of survivorship."
4. What is your hope for LatinaSHARE on its 25th Anniversary?
I would like to see LatinaSHARE get the recognition it deserves for helping so many Latina women like myself. I would also like to see LatinaSHARE continue to expand and grow into other states and reach out to many Latina women who are in dire need of services in Spanish and have limited access in their areas. Working closely with Ivis Sampayo, I feel privileged to be considered part of the NYC SHARE staff in facilitating a support group in Orlando, Florida. Thank you, LatinaSHARE, for that opportunity!