By Jennifer Vazquez
There is a group of women that define the terms strength, resilience, camaraderie and hope. Brave Women is a support group, for those inflicted with cancer, that transcends all nationalities. Particularly, it is a beacon of hope to many Spanish and Portuguese speaking women who are facing a battle with cancer.
Brave Women is the brainchild of Kearny resident Emma Quintana –a breast cancer survivor who will soon be celebrating her 12th year since being diagnosed and winning her battle. While undergoing her treatments, she realized that there was no support group, especially, for those who are solely Spanish speakers or are just more comfortable communicating in the Spanish language.
“When I went through my battle with breast cancer and the chemo, I had no support groups in the area,” Quintana explained. “I know my family would have been great but there was a point where they didn’t even know that I was diagnosed. So I bottled that in. I knew it was time for people in the community to have a place to go to and be able to talk and connect with people who understand, in their own language.”
When one sits through a group’s meeting, the welcoming and familial atmosphere is palpable.
“We are all now a family,” Quintana said.
Edilberta Decastro, a 20- year breast cancer survivor, shares the same sentiments.
“When I was diagnosed and was going through treatment, there was no support group that catered to Spanish and Portuguese speakers,” Decastro explained. “You felt alone. This is why this group is so great. We help others through their battle…the strength, the support and all the hardships one faces (when battling cancer) really brings people together.”
Even Ligia Corchuelo who volunteers her time to lend her support and a helping hand to those who walk through the doors battling cancer perceives the importance of the group in aiding and guiding others through their struggle.
“You feel the love and the (genuine) care that everyone has for the other,” she said. “I felt it was my duty to, in one way or another, help the brave women that form part (of Brave Women).”
Though Brave Women began as a support group for Hispanic women battling breast cancer, it has since expanded to include, not only Spanish-speaking women, but Portuguese speaking women, and has embraced individuals with any type of cancer.
“We also have had men come to our group meetings –maybe it’s time to change our name!” she giggled.
Mario Santos is one such “brave man.” He attends the meetings to lend support and brings a new perspective to the table. He knows what it is like to lose someone to cancer –he lost his wife Lucy to colon cancer roughly eight years ago.
“People need to understand that cancer not only affects the (cancer victim) but an entire family and friends,” he said.
Not only is Santos supportive of Brave Women but the group is also supportive of his foundation, The Angel Lucy Wellness Project. Angel Lucy is a charitable organization fully funded by Santos’ own electronic repair and training company, Santonics. Angel Lucy aims to “help cancer patients and their families by providing information, financial and emotional support, and by developing and/or introducing activities that lead to an improvement in the quality of life of cancer patients and/or their families. There are no paid employees involved in this project,” according to its website.
“We provide cancer patients, and their families not only financial support,” he explained. “We also provide them with unbiased information – both conventional and (alternative) treatment methods.”
Just as Santos supports their group, Brave Women also attend Angel Lucy events.
“We are in this together,” Quintana said.
Quintana and the rest of the Brave Women ladies are quick to point out that they may have faced and are facing certain struggles, but the group allows them an escape and a chance to be kids again.
“A lot of people who meet us think that we are going to be sad and depressed, which is true — you do go through that stage,” Quintana explained. “But we are here to help and in doing so we help ourselves. This is a big family and we do fun things together. We have a fashion show. Each year we nominate and crown a Brave Women Queen. That is one of everyone’s favorite events. Each time someone wins they always say, ‘I felt like a queen!’ Once people see the way we live our life they tell us they can’t believe we are so positive! We are now here to celebrate life and help others have the strength to fight this disease and celebrate their own triumph!”
Brave Women meet in the East Newark Senior Center the last Friday of every month. Meetings are from 7 to 9 p.m. and all are welcome.
If you would like more information about Angel Lucy Wellness Project visit www.santronics.net.