When she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer almost two decades ago, Ilene Cohen wasn’t able to attend support groups or speak with women who had already battled cancer and could offer advice. So when she entered remission after six grueling chemotherapy treatments and surgery, she decided to give back to the community by volunteering with the then-blossoming organization, Support Connection.
“Because I felt lucky, I wanted to give my time to an organization that helps other women facing similar challenges. It’s such a frightening and bewildering feeling [to be diagnosed],” she said.
It was in Sept. 1996 that she made a donation to the organization’s second annual Support-A-Walk, but her involvement didn’t end there. Cohen has been a steady volunteer for fifteen years and now spends two or three days a week at the Yorktown office, where, she is responsible for maintaining the mailing list (which has now reached 15,000 names), proofreads the community newsletter and organizes the hefty list of volunteers. Cohen is also a regular volunteer and participant in the annual Support-A-Walk with a team of family and friends who walk with her to help increase awareness, understanding and early detection.
“I think that most women facing a diagnosis of breast or ovarian cancer would want more information about their situation and would do as much as possible to improve their chances for a positive outcome,” Cohen added.
This 40-year Yorktown resident knows that concern well. That’s why she encourages friends and neighbors to speak with a counselor at Support Connection even before the initial biopsy is done.
“[The counselors] will be able to suggest some questions a woman might ask her doctor in order to better understand her treatment options and prognosis. If you know what to expect, you’re not as scared,” she said.
Some programming offered by Support Connection includes one-on-one peer counseling, exercise classes promoting wellness, support groups and educational activities designed to offer more understanding about breast and ovarian cancer. All of Support Connection’s services are free and confidential and trained facilitators are cancer survivors.