When journalist and cancer survivor Ysabel Duron turned the camera on herself, she launched an encore career that shines a spotlight on cancer for Latino communities across the United States.
In 1999, during a cervical checkup, TV anchorwoman Ysabel Duron’s gynecologist discovered a golf ball-sized cancerous tumor in her pelvic region. The diagnosis: Hodgkin lymphoma. She felt healthy and, strangely, unworried. So Duron, who had been on the air in San Francisco for years, turned the camera on herself—and on the larger issue of cancer treatment.
She broadcast it all: being pumped full of chemotherapy drugs, shaving off her hair, receiving radiation treatment. She also visited support groups and interviewed cancer patients “to make it [about] learning because there was still a big bugaboo around the word ‘cancer,’” she recalls. The resulting three-part documentary, “Life With Cancer,” won a Radio Television New Directors Association award, and Duron became a poster child for cancer treatment.
After she recovered, she was haunted by how few other Latinos she had seen receiving treatment. Questions about how, and where, Spanish-speaking cancer victims got help plagued her. She had survived. But how many did not?
That’s why when the Cancer Prevention Institute of California asked Duron to work with a group of Latina women around issues of breast cancer, Duron leaped at the chance. She helped establish the 501c3 nonprofit Las Isabellas , which organized the first Mother’s Day Walk Against Cancer.
But she felt called to do more, by expanding the visibility of low-income Latinos fighting the disease. “So began my encore career — carved in experience , inspired by need, honed in a huge learning curve about the issue,” says Duron, now 66.
In September 2003 she founded Latinas Contra Cancer (Latinas Against Cancer), an organization committed to educating, supporting and providing essential services to low-income Spanish speakers suffering from the disease.
Since then, LCC has offered a range of programs that support and teach more than 2,700 men, women and children about the disease, resulting in more than 300 preventative cancer screenings. The group has provided psychological and social support to several dozen patients per year. And out of 50 who suffered terminal cancer, LCC navigated 35 of them into hospice —a novel and important success rate in a community unfamiliar with this kind of care.