Comadre a Comadre started out 12 years ago as a community-based program co-founded with six Hispanic/Latina breast cancer survivors and their loved ones along with Dr. Elba L. Saavedra. The survivors shared their experiences about both, the lack of culturally sensitive psychological support available to them, and their own lack of knowledge of services once they were diagnosed with breast cancer.

In the beginning, they came up with a word, “comadre,” to describe their cause; their mission. Comadre is a term used to describe the non-biological close female kinship that exists in the Hispanic/Latino extended family unit. The term comprises Comadre a Comadre, a holistic program housed in the University of New Mexico’s College of Education that embodies strong Hispanic/Latino cultural coping practices, such as prayer and family support to address the many practical challenges faced by cancer patients.

Comadres helps empowering the lives of Hispanic/Latina women and their loved ones through advocacy, education, information, resources, and support about breast health and breast cancer. The holistic approach includes strong Hispanic/Latino cultural coping practices, such as prayer and family support, to address the many practical challenges faced by cancer patients.

Among Hispanic women in New Mexico, breast cancer is the most common form. Survivors who were involved with the Comadre program bring a lifelong passion and ability to motivate and inspire others to adapt and survive from a traumatic illness. Not only are the Comadres survivors, but they are also representative of the Hispanic/Latino culture of the women being reached. The program’s staff and volunteers are bilingual and Hispanic/Latino. Those survivors helped by the program often become volunteers and continue the work.

One of the comadres, who is now a peer navigator, is co-founder Dalila Romero, a 20-year breast cancer survivor who was recognized recently with the Spirit of Hope award presented by the Nancy Floyd Haworth Foundation recognizing her advocacy and dedication. Romero was nominated for the award by Dr. Anna Voltura at the UNM Cancer Center. Romero was presented with the award at the NFHF 25th Annual Celebration of Hope Luncheon and Conference on Saturday, March 21.

The Spirit of Hope Award is presented annually to exceptional individuals who have made significant contributions in the fight against breast cancer. Past recipients include breast cancer survivors, healthcare professionals and volunteers who have become models of hope and encouragement for New Mexico cancer patients and their families.

“We are incredibly excited for Dalila,” said Dr. Elba Saavedra, director of Comadre a Comadre. This award really reflects the immensity of respect the oncology community has for Dalila as the Comadre program's navigator and our program. The Comadre Patient Navigators work side by side with the clinicians in support of the patient, which makes this award even more special.”

For Romero, who is now a certified breast cancer navigator, she started as a volunteer at Comadre a Comadre, after her battle with breast cancer. Saavedra says Romero is very deserving of the award.

“Dalila is not only gentle and compassionate in her support of the women she helps, but is an amazing advocate and a skilled navigator, Saavedra said. “She offers invaluable emotional support since she ‘has been there.’ Along with our other Comadre breast cancer survivor volunteers, she works full-time, and in the evenings would mentor and support newly-enrolled women.

“Then, when she retired she decided to be trained and work for the Comadre Program as a patient navigator. We are so grateful to her. The Comadre Program has a strong history of amazingly dedicated "Comadres" who give from their heart, and Dalila is exemplary of this.”

The Nancy Floyd Haworth Foundation supports the efforts of community organizations providing breast cancer services while educating the public about the disease. Comadre a Comadre is similarly focused as a mentoring program for Hispanic women diagnosed with the disease.

As part of the awards ceremony, Comadre a Comadre was also awarded a grant to the UNM Foundation for the Comadre a Comadre program. The grant will provide navigators and peer educators to those recently diagnosed with breast cancer who may be experiencing language or cultural barriers to accessing services.

The keynote speaker for the event was Joan Lunden, an award-winning journalist, best-selling author, motivational speaker, successful entrepreneur, and one of America’s most recognized and trusted television personalities. The mother of seven continues to do it all despite being diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in June.

For more information, visit: The Nancy Floyd Haworth Foundation.