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Advocate’s Voice: What is an advocate?

Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation spoke with breast cancer advocate Barbara Arocha-Diaz from Tampa, Florida during our 8th International Symposium on the Breast. We talked with her about her role and motivation to be an advocate and how she helps other women. DSLRF: What’s the backstory on your advocacy? BarbaraADBarbara Arocha-Diaz: I am a breast cancer advocate, bilingual counselor, and an eight year survivor. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2006, I immediately threw myself into researching. Any brochure or anything on the internet that I could read-- any paperwork, pamphlets at the doctor’s office--I started reading and researching. I immediately knew I wanted to go out and talk to women and learn more about breast cancer. So, I attended Project Lead  of the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) and I started representing the Florida Breast Cancer Foundation, which is based out of Miami, in the Tampa area I also volunteered for Moffit Cancer Center as a patient advocate and I really enjoyed it. Empowering, educating, and informing women is so important. Women really need to be health advocates for themselves. There are so many types of breast cancer and so many ways to be treated. Every woman is a different individual, and we have to educate ourselves so we can determine what treatment is best for our bodies and ourselves. DSLRF: So what does a patient advocate do? Arocha-Diaz: You inform, you educate, and you empower women. You talk to them, you tell them the different types of therapies there are for breast cancers, the different ways to be treated, that there are different breast cancers. Just make suggestions and help: how to eat better, whether it is because you have, or have had, cancer or to avoid cancer, how to be healthy, exercise, yoga. There are all kinds of things now-a-days that women can do that helps with recovering from breast cancer or trying to prevent it. DSLRF: How do you become an advocate? Arocha-Diaz: It’s a choice you make. You have to be proactive, you meet people, you network, and you educate yourself constantly. You stay up to date so you can share that with other women. DSLRF: How does someone find an advocate? Arocha-Diaz: You begin by asking your doctor’s office.   Or, you can go online and type in where you live and ‘breast cancer advocate’ and I’m sure that some names will pop up. DSLRF: Have you participated in clinical research? Arocha-Diaz: I have not. There is no particular reason, I just really haven’t come across any clinical trial I could participate in or that I would be a good candidate for. I would love to, absolutely. Whatever we can do to get this resolved. There are still too many women dying and that should not be happening.