Women's Cancer Resource Center celebrates 25 years

April 28, 2011 4:10:47 PM PDT
It is hard to imagine, but 25 years ago there were very few, if any, support groups for women fighting cancer in the East Bay.

One of the first is celebrating a major milestone this weekend. The Women's Cancer Resource Center is making lives better and helping to save them too. It started out as an answering machine in a living room 25 years ago. It was a simple idea by a group of women, all fighting cancer, without any support other than each other.

"It was like I had heard nothing and there was nothing for me. I was thrown, sort of, to the wolves," Scientist Darlene de Manincor recalled.

De Manincor knew all about the medical side of the disease, but it took her own diagnosis to realize there were no support groups or gathering places for women just like her. She beat it. The founder and so many others were not as lucky.

"You can't realize what it's like to hear those words, "You have cancer," until you hear them," de Manincor told ABC7.

Today, the Women's Cancer Resource Center is a lifeline. Women come for everything from yoga to calm the nerves, to hats to hide the baldness. It is even a place where, sometimes, they come to smile. Help is on a first name basis and it targets specific communities like lesbians or Spanish speakers.

Many patients are uninsured. Emergency funds for things like medicine and taxis to the doctor go fast, but the door is always open whether they come right after being diagnosed or are in the final stages of the fight.

"Our message, at that point, is this is a safe place," said Executive Director Peggy McGuire. "You're safe, and you're welcome, and we're here to help you."

From that answering machine to their current building in Oakland, for 25 years, the Women's Cancer Resource Center has helped 80,000 women fight the disease. Elizabeth Jay is among those fighters.

"For somebody who's newly diagnosed, it's like 'OK. Lots of people have been through this and I'm going to get the support I need,'" she said.

With the help of everyone at the center, she will keep on fighting.

A birthday party to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Women's Cancer Resource Center will be held on Sunday, May 1 from 2 - 5 p.m. at 5741 Telegraph Avenue (at 58th Street) in Oakland. Tickets are $25. Donations can be made at the door or online at http://www.wcrc.org/.


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