SACI supports book of Latinas’ breast cancer experiences

Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., president, visits with Sylvia Fernandez, Ph.D., vignette author (center), and Amelie Ramirez, Dr.P.H., associate director of community research for the San Antonio Cancer Institute. Dr. Fernandez holds the gift she and the other Nuestras Historias authors received.

San Antonio (Oct. 19, 2004) – Among Latina women, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the number one cancer killer. In a new book, 26 South Texas women who have fought this deadly disease describe the Latina breast cancer experience in their own words.

The book, Nuestras Historias: Mujeres Hispanas Sobreviviendo el Cáncer del Seno (Our Stories: Hispanic Women Surviving Breast Cancer), is a 114-page, full-color publication presented in both English and Spanish. Through the stories of the women, the book relates the influence of the Hispanic/Latino culture on the breast cancer experience and on the coping skills used by many of the Latina women in battling the disease.

The Nuestras Historias project was supported by grants from the San Antonio Cancer Institute (SACI), the San Antonio Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and the Lance Armstrong Foundation. The SACI is a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Cancer Center and represents the combined cancer research programs of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and the Cancer Therapy and Research Center. Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., president of the Health Science Center, and David Boldt, M.D., interim director of the SACI, praised the strength and courage of the women who shared their stories.

The San Antonio Cancer Institute’s support of Nuestras Historias, a book to promote awareness of breast cancer in the Latina community, fits right in line with the SACI’s cancer prevention program.

The book was produced by Redes En Acción: The National Hispanic/Latino Cancer Network, a Special Populations Networks initiative supported by the NCI. Headquartered in San Antonio, Redes En Acción is coordinated by Baylor College of Medicine.
“One of the threads that you see running throughout these stories is the amazing resiliency of these Latinas as they cope with a disease that is having a devastating impact not only on their own lives but on the lives of their families and loved ones,” notes Amelie G. Ramirez, Dr.P.H., Redes En Acción principal investigator, associate director of community research for the SACI and professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

The women’s stories reflect this resilience and resolve not only in fighting the disease, but also in confronting the numerous accompanying issues – fear, depression, financial worries, and the possibility of leaving loved ones behind. Coping skills employed in this day-to-day battle included prayer and faith, as well as reliance on tools such as humor, music, books, dance and even family pets.

“My message now is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude,” said Sylvia Fernandez, Ph.D., one of the vignette authors and a familiar face to Health Science Center faculty and staff from her years in student services. She is enjoying her retirement and savoring time with family and friends. “Life is a precious gift – enjoy each moment,” she said.

The Nuestras Historias stories include practical advice, such as the importance of regular screening, the value of perseverance and education, and the assistance available through local organizations that provide support and help guide patients through the health care system.

Nuestras Historias serves a dual purpose – inspirational and educational – and will be provided free to Latina women diagnosed with breast cancer through organizations such as the Komen Foundation, Alamo Breast Cancer Foundation, American Cancer Society, and Women Involved in Nurturing, Giving and Sharing (WINGS). Copies of the book can be obtained by calling the Komen Foundation at (210) 222-9009.

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