Latinas Contra Cancer

Latinas Contra Cancer Empowers Patients to Advocate for Change

Stories@Gilead - November 22, 2022 - 4 min read

When Darcie Green’s dad got sick, she thought she was prepared to help him navigate the healthcare system. She’d spent her entire career in healthcare policy. But as he got sicker and his care got more complicated, she found herself in over her head.

“Even with all of the knowledge I had of healthcare policy, and all of the working knowledge I had of patient advocacy in healthcare systems, it was so difficult for my dad to get adequate care,” remembers Darcie. “I was faced with this very personal and scary moment of seeing firsthand unnecessary issues within healthcare systems.”

Darcie’s dad eventually recovered, but the experience of fighting for his care had a big impact on her. Today, she brings that unique perspective into her daily work, as the Executive Director of Latinas Contra Cancer, a San Jose-based nonprofit advocacy organization and Gilead grantee.

Latinas Contra Cancer nonprofit
Founded in 2003, Latinas Contra Cancer aims to raise awareness about cancer in the Latinx community and advocate for improved care. Through its support groups, skilled patient advocates and educational programs, the organization has improved the health outcomes of thousands of individuals in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties in the Bay Area as they navigate cancer diagnoses and treatment.

Darcie came on as Executive Director four years ago, but she was well aware of the organization’s mission for a long time: Before passing away from breast cancer, Darcie’s grandmother who lived in San Jose was in the very first support group held by Latinas Contra Cancer. “I know just how important getting linguistically and culturally competent support during her cancer journey was for my grandmother,” says Darcie. “She received dignity and care from the organization.”

In the four years since Darcie started at the organization, she’s helped strengthen its programs, expand its support groups and rebrand its patient advocacy division – all rooted in the Latinx community.

“If someone diagnosed with cancer is having an issue with getting the follow-up screenings that they need or the quality care that they deserve, we make sure they don’t have to navigate through it alone,” she says.

Providing support for people who come through Latinas Contra Cancer remains at the core of its mission. But as Darcie dove further into the work, she began to identify the many racial and ethnic disparities in care.

“We're helping people navigate care each day by assisting them in getting to their appointments and getting better treatment,” she says. “But it’s not eliminating these injustices from happening. We're just helping people navigate them.”

Defensoras: Healthcare Advocate Training program
To make a difference in these efforts, Latinas Contra Cancer launched Defensoras: Healthcare Advocate Training, a program for patients that’s designed with modules on topics such as patient’s rights, healthcare justice and navigating treatment options. Graduates of the 10-week program have the potential to generate significant improvements in their healthcare community. But as cancer survivors themselves, there’s an added layer of importance to the work.

“This is really about power building in the Latinx patient population to push healthcare systems to be more just,” says Darcie. “It’s a big win for everybody because when patients feel more powerful, they have more hope. Adjusting the power dynamic between patients and healthcare providers is important to us.” 

By arming these patients with the tools they need to create change, Darcie is working to expand the reach of Latinas Contra Cancer.

“We're going to have large numbers of patients with more knowledge of policy and the healthcare system and how to prevent disparities,” says Darcie. “This additional knowledge will help us identify what we should take on next.”

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