Walking towards hope – and creating a haven

  • English

Walking towards hope – and creating a haven

Story by Francis Rodriguez

Fary de Leon, founder and president of the wellness organization FACES, wishes to offer support to those whose lives, like hers, have been touched by cancer.

Fary de Leon, founder and president of
the wellness organization FACES, wishes
to offer support to those whose lives, like
hers, have been touched by cancer.

To be diagnosed with cancer is a significant event, one that can rob many women of joy and energy.

Steely determination is what is required in order to stand up and fight for life, literally.

So says Fary de Leon, president and founder of Latin Women Empower.

She would know.

De Leon is a cancer survivor who has sought to channel her energies into a new mission in which she helps empower other women conquer to cancer, and to do so with the positivity and hope from the support found in numbers.

As part of her work with the Latin Women Empower’s initiative ‘Faces’, De Leon not only offers assistance to women suffering from cancer, but is looking to rally the larger community.

And on Sun., Sept. 30th at 9:00 a.m., De Leon, together with thousands of supporters, will carry forth the slogan “Walking Towards a Cancer-Free Future” on banners, posters, and t-shirts – and they want others to join in.

De Leon is seeking, as was the case last year in the organization’s inaugural march, to raise awareness about the need for testing early and often.

“The early diagnosis is essential because it brings hope; the chances to survive are much greater,” explained De Leon. “This is our second Latinos Walk Against cancer and I’m really happy for the support and enthusiasm that I’m feeling. We will be starting at 145th Street and Riverside Drive and will walk all the way to Fort Tryon Park on Dyckman Street.”

De Leon, who was born in Dominican Republic and moved to the States in 1986, was diagnosed with cancer two years ago. She explained that at that time she felt lost.

Supporters of the Second Annual Walk Against Cancer, seen here in the inaugural march, will gather again this coming Sun., Sept. 30th.

Supporters of the Second Annual Walk Against
Cancer, seen here in the inaugural march, will
gather again this coming Sun., Sept. 30th.

“I wished I could have found an institution focused on Latinas that offered support. As Latina, I didn’t find one and that is the reason why I decided to create this organization,” said De Leon.

Last year, the march attracted approximately 3,000 people.

There were many struggling with cancer, and also many whose lives have been touched by it, including those showing support in honor of loved ones who have since passed or who still fight against the disease.

De Leon is expecting an ever greater turnout this year.

“After the past year’s march, we’ve been working harder and we need to continue to work at this level. That is the only way to get to more people,” she said.

Among those who are helping in getting the word out and lending assistance to De Leon’s efforts are Columbia University Medical Center, Ford Motor Company, the American Cancer Society, and New York State Assemblymember Guillermo Linares, whom De Leon described as one of her strongest allies.

For his part, Assemblymember Linares called the partnership “very rewarding.”

“When I met Fary de Leon, she shared with me her story as a cancer survivor and her strong desire to help others,” said Assemblymember Linares. “I felt connected immediately and valued the importance of her work. I believed then and still believe that I needed to get involved and do all in my power to help her spread the word about it and that is what I have been doing.”

The Assemblymember agreed that women, as primary caregivers, tend to lose sight of the need to visit their doctors and get tested, and often neglect regular check-ups.

“It is vital to take time for health and for education against this silent enemy,” he said.

The walk aims to raise awareness about the importance of early testing for women.

The walk aims to raise awareness about the
importance of early testing for women.

Fremio Lopez, owner of local business Sepia Printing, serves as the Vice President of the organization.

While grateful for the partnerships created, Lopez emphasized the need for more awareness, and participation.

“We still have a long way to go,” said Lopez. “We need to make our voices stronger in the community and [need] to integrate more institutions and persons to help us in this great mission.”

De Leon said the organization’s work would endure, as would its mission to help all cancer survivors and fighters, especially Latinas, find a safe haven.

“I want to offer orientation,” said De Leon, “[and] a place where you’ll share experiences. I want to say to all those women struggling with cancer and to survivors, “’You are not alone.’”

To join the Walk Against Cancer, please visit www.latinfaces.org or visit Facebook: Latin Women Empower Faces.