After losing your mother to breast cancer, it was important to you to spread breast cancer awareness to Latinas. Why do you feel this is important?
I remember the first time my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was 37-years-old. Our local hospital had a support group and we encouraged her to join, but she only stayed about 15 minutes, came back home and said that she was not comfortable. She was the only Latina and most of the ladies were a lot older than she was. As time passed she helped many Latinas in the community that were battling cancer, by offering them support and encouragement. I wanted to do the same. I see and work with so many Latinas. Many have went to big breast cancer organizations and they were turned away and not even offered any type of support. I want to provide support to all Latinas, let them know they are not alone and that together we can beat breast cancer. This is no longer a white woman's disease as many Latinas are diagnosed and dying from this horrible disease daily!
Latina women are very concentrated on family: they are caregivers, they put themselves last. This is a problem because if mom is not well, no one is truly well. Cultural barriers often prevent Latinas from discussing their fears with their family, leading to isolation and sometimes other health problems as well. Through the Abigail Barraza Foundation our goal has always been to unite and educate Latinas in the fight against breast cancer.
What does a typical class you run look like?
A typical class for me, is introducing myself and telling my story of why I started the foundation and my journey to educate Latinas in the fight against breast cancer.
We then ask everyone in attendance to share their story and how they have been affected by cancer and offer support to one another. We also give out information about how to do a self breast exam, and answer any questions the audience may have. At the end we are all hugging, crying and exchanging numbers to continue to be of support. No one fights alone.
We also have guest speakers, such as oncologist, makeup artists (to help with eyebrows and eyelashes, since all hair falls out with chemo) and pastors to pray with the families and provide direction and guidance through this difficult time.