My daughter, Gabriela, described a breast cancer diagnosis as “living in a tunnel of darkness and fear.” Despite her young age, this is how she described how women feel when diagnosed with breast cancer; and this is exactly how I felt in May of 2003 when my breast cancer diagnosis was confirmed. Within seconds, my life was forever changed. I was overwhelmed with fear and uncertainty: Would I survive this terrible disease? Fortunately, I emerged from this tunnel of darkness and fear through education and support. I had the support of my husband, family, friends, support group and my great team of doctors.
Although I was overwhelmed with fear, my breast cancer experience taught me many valuable lessons and forever changed my life in many positive ways. I discovered an inner strength and passion that I did not know existed. I wanted to find a purpose for my diagnosis and use my personal experience to help others.
A year after my diagnosis, I joined the Patient-Centered Teaching program developed by Stuart Green from Overlook Hospital in Summit, NJ. As a patient educator, I had the opportunity to share my personal experience with healthcare providers from various hospitals as well as women in the community. After managing the program for two years, I felt empowered with knowledge and an overwhelming desire to help women facing a breast cancer diagnosis; especially those women who are medically underserved.
As a Latina breast cancer survivor, I know how difficult it is to navigate the healthcare system, especially during a time of stress. Based on my personal experience, I started helping medically-underserved women in the community to access healthcare services and resources in the community in July 2007.
Over the past five years, I have seen the fear and suffering of women diagnosed with breast cancer. For medically-underserved women, a breast cancer diagnosis has devastating effects. These women not only have to deal with the disease–in the majority of cases, they also need to deal with issues that affect their emotional, economic, and family stability. For those women, who often do not speak English, the obstacles are even greater due to language barriers and cultural differences. Curémonos was established to make a difference in the lives of these women.
The community-based-patient-navigator program that evolved from this work assists medically underserved women with breast health concerns or a breast cancer diagnosis. In partnership with healthcare providers from various hospitals, Curémonos strives to provide support services that generate a lasting impact on women’s lives.