Together We Walk the Path . . .
People Living Through Cancer is a growing community of those who understand the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual repercussions of cancer. In short, we’ve been there and we exist so that no one will have to go through cancer alone. Our programs are designed to help people face the challenges of cancer and improve the quality of our lives. Our members are cancer survivors, their families, friends, healthcare professionals, community leaders, and volunteers who support survivorship. A cancer survivor is anyone who has ever received a diagnosis of cancer. Survivorship acknowledges the potential for quality living after a diagnosis.
PLTC sponsors many types of peer support groups. More than a dozen different support groups provide a safe, non-judgmental fellowship to share feelings and to obtain and provide information and emotional support: reassurance, encouragement, and hope. We have groups for survivors, family members and friends; groups for men, women, breast cancer survivors, ovarian cancer survivors, and for those interested in integrative medicine. New groups are formed as needed. Twice a year, PLTC offers a peer support group facilitator training for New Mexicans, and nationally for Native Americans.
Some individuals are more comfortable with One to One emotional support as an alternative to a group. The People Living Through Cancer staff will arrange matches with volunteers who have had similar cancer experiences. The volunteers provide information and emotional support, often over the telephone or by e-mail. This service is free and available statewide.
PLTC’s Lending Library has New Mexico’s largest collection of cancer-related materials for healthcare consumers. Books, tapes, and videotapes. DVD’s include information on living well after a cancer diagnosis, family issues, exercise, nutrition, personal narratives, loss, grief, spirituality, coping, and more. Throughout the year, workshops are offered to cover many of these same topics.
People Living Through Cancer is a grassroots non-profit organization founded in 1983 in Albuquerque, New Mexico by cancer survivors. It has become one of the nation’s oldest cancer survivorship organizations, with a membership of over 1000 persons.
With a full-time staff and numerous volunteers offer support and education to cancer survivors, their families and friends. People Living Through Cancer’s programs and activities help its members make informed choices and improve their quality of life by sharing in a community of people who have “been there.”
In 1986, PLTC launched the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, and in 1996 and 2002, PLTC was honored for excellence by earning the prestigious Quality New Mexico recognition.
Some of the Services Provided by PLTC
Skillfully-managed peer cancer support groups throughout New Mexico
One-to-one matching of people with others who have faced similar diagnoses
An Outreach program for underserved populations in New Mexico
A Telephone LifeLine providing immediate support, information and referrals in both English and Spanish
The People Living Through Cancer Journal, a periodic publication with a circulation of 7,500
The largest Lending Library of cancer-related materials for healthcare consumers in New Mexico
An annual statewide cancer survivorship conference
Expert training in peer support, group facilitation, organizational development, and non-judgmental support
Sustaining the courageous and necessary work of People Living Through Cancer staff and volunteers is an ongoing task. Funding comes through memberships, grants, gifts, charitable donations of cash, goods and services and collaboration with other groups and organizations supporting cancer survivorship in New Mexico. The generosity of the Albuquerque and New Mexico community has helped to build a solid foundation for leadership and quality service. The demand for services increases daily.
There are numerous ways to join with People Living Through Cancer to support identified needs for education, training, support, outreach and recognition:
On Borrowed Time represents an emerging trend in a people-centered approach to healthcare: medical humanities. The readers theater is an innovative and dynamic outreach program which presents and explores, in a theatrical venue, the important relationship between creativity and the healing process; the transformative power of art.”
Through theater and art we share our creativity and stories about survivorship in order to provide hope, encouragement and empowerment to those who have been affected by cancer.”
This is a wonderful reader’s theater project, which had it origins in an art exhibition at the Governor’s Gallery in the State Capitol in Santa Fe, New Mexico in May, 2000. That show titled, On Borrowed Time: Translations of Life with Breast Cancer”, consisted of art by New Mexico artists who are surviving breast cancer and was organized under the sponsorship of New Mexico’s former First Lady, Dee Johnson.
The exhibit has also been shown at the Women’s Health Center in Santa Fe, The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Albuquerque, The Macy Center at Tech in Soccoro, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Lovelace Medical Center, The American Cancer Society in Albuquerque, the Julianna Kirwin Gallery in Bernalillo and at the new Cancer Institute of New Mexico in Santa Fe.
The show has been described as…”a brilliant collection of intelligent, compassionate works of art…”
As artists and survivors, On Borrowed Time…a non profit affiliate of People Living Through Cancer…brings their inspiring message to people throughout the state of New Mexico. This project was made possible through a grant from the New Mexico Women’s Foundation.
SCALES: Surviviors of Cancer Advocacy and LEgal Services
This program is supported by lawyers care referral of the State Bar of New Mexico.
Referrals may be made to trained attorneys when:
Appropriate treatment has been denied
Physician prescribed treatment has been denied by insurance
You have experienced discrimination (cancer related) based on genetic testing
You have experienced discrimination in the workplace to a cancer diagnosis or treatment
Income Eligibility Guidelines Apply to Pro Bono Services.
People Living Through Cancer has developed on three levels: its philosophy has matured; its services have been refined and expanded; and its organizational structure has grown and become more secure.
Along with these developments came recognition locally, statewide, and nationally as well as the respect as a model organization with genuine heart and high standards of service.
People Living Through Cancer, 1983-2001:
A Brief Narrative from a PLTC founder
In 1983, five Albuquerque women made a commitment to establish an organization that would link together the lives of people who were living with cancer. We knew immediately that it felt right, even when there was only a handful of us. What we did not know was that this organization we called “Living Through Cancer,” later to become “People Living Through Cancer,” would have an impact every year on thousands of families facing cancer and would improve the quality of their lives.
Grounded in thousands of shared cancer experiences
It is through the process of sharing with many other survivors and family members, that we learned that we could best support others by helping them find their own answers, based on their personal values and lifestyles.
PLTC fulfills this role by providing non-judgmental, moral support and improved access to reliable information. Over the years, PLTC has held firmly to its grassroots identity as a peer support organization. The sharing of our stories is our most fundamental activity. As such, we see the organization as a kind of repository of the wisdom and knowledge that thousands have gained through their cancer experiences. These experiences are passed along to others who are drawn into this developing culture we now call cancer survivorship.
PLTC has become increasingly committed to helping cancer survivors become well informed about their healthcare options and motivated to advocate for themself within the healthcare system. The organization also values political advocacy and the PLTC staff and volunteers have participated actively on local and national panels, councils, and advisory groups since the early 1990s.
Guided by the needs of the growing PLTC community
PLTC’s services have always developed in response to the expressed needs of cancer survivors and their families. Peer support through group sessions and one-to-one consultation has always been the most requested service.
Beginning with one group of four women in 1983, the number of groups sponsored by PLTC grew to approximately fifteen by the mid 1990s, serving hundreds of group members. Each group is facilitated by volunteers who are cancer survivors or family members and meets several times a month.
The organization began with a conference in 1983. Since then, annual conferences and a variety of educational and experiential workshops have remained an important part of PLTC’s services.
Beginning in its first year, PLTC regularly has published a periodical, the Journal, that is still distributed to a growing mailing list and through Albuquerque healthcare facilities.
In the mid 1980s, an onsite lending library was established. It soon grew to the largest collection in New Mexico of literature, audiotapes, videotapes, and other material related to cancer survivorship.
PLTC has developed two training programs that help maintain the quality of PLTC’s programs and promote the PLTC model. The first one, initially developed in the mid 1980s, is a three day program called “Cancer Survivorship: Together We Walk the Path.” It acquaints PLTC’s new group facilitators and others interested in peer support programs with PLTC’s philosophy. It also provides the skills and knowledge necessary to facilitate non-judgmental peer support.
The second training, “Cancer Survivorship in Indian Country,” is a week-long national training for American Indians and Alaska Natives who are interested in starting survivorship programs in their communities. This training program began in 1996 and was developed in consultation with “A Gathering of Cancer Support,” a Pueblo Indian program that operated as part of PLTC for four years.
In the early 1990s, PLTC implemented specific strategies designed to reach Albuquerque’s diverse populations. At the same time, PLTC increased its efforts to build a diverse Board of Directors. Since then the Board and its leadership have closely reflected the racial and cultural mix in the community at large.
PLTC and its staff members have received several awards in recognition of its outreach efforts, including a 1996 award from the National Cancer Institute.
In 1997, PLTC added an outreach program dedicated to reaching the diverse communities throughout the state. It supports and promotes culturally appropriate services for cancer survivors and their families, encourages participation in PLTC’s training programs, and manages the Leadership Council, a statewide network of cancer peer support leaders that meets twice a year.
Seeding New Survivor Organizations
PLTC has been the home of a number of other organizations. In 1986, it was the founding organization of the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS). It housed NCCS until 1991 when it moved to the nation’s capital to become one of the leading cancer survivor advocacy organizations.
Other organizations functioned as part of PLTC until they were ready for independent status, including the Prostate Cancer Support Association of New Mexico, the New Mexico Breast Cancer Coalition and A Gathering of Cancer Support.
Currently, “On Borrowed Time” is an umbrella organization of People Living Through Cancer. This group shares their story through art and readings about their cancer experiences.
PLTC’s organizational development, as well as its services, are guided by a formal strategic planning process that involves staff, Board of Directors, and other volunteers.
The first five-year strategic plan was published in the summer of 1991. Accompanied by the organization’s first business plan, it was followed by a burst of growth, including a substantial increase in the number of people served, a significant increase in the organization’s budget, and a period of financial stability that has been sustained since then. The second five-year plan was published in 1997, followed by PLTC’s current plan, published in 2002 .
Since PLTC was established as a 501(c) 3 corporation in 1984, volunteerism has been its foundation. The organization could not have sustained the scope and quality of its programs, nor the organizational structure it needed, without hundreds of active volunteers working in a wide variety of capacities.
Many dedicated and skilled volunteers and staff members have contributed to the successes of the organization. In the early years of the organization, there was no paid staff. In 2001, the organization had six employees.
What is most important about the history of People Living Through Cancer is that its staff and volunteers touch people’s lives on a daily basis and are willing to listen to their concerns, look into their eyes and take whatever time is needed to be there with someone in crisis because of a cancer diagnosis or recurrence.
PLTC is a membership organization and receives dues, donations, and support of fundraising events from thousands of people every year. It also has received major support from foundations, small businesses, and corporations.
In the mid 1990s, PLTC began a contractual relationship with the Indian Health Service (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), and since 1995, the organization has been awarded annual contracts by the New Mexico Department of Health. Current grants include the United Way and the Komen Foundation.
The cancer survivor’s experience of being alive today can be profoundly changed by the services offered by People Living Through Cancer.
For almost two decades, PLTC has filled a unique and essential role in New Mexico by providing critical cancer care services. Annually, PLTC’s staff and hundreds of dedicated volunteers continue to provide strength and support to more than 1,500 families facing cancer.
All of PLTC’s programs are designed to help people face the challenges of cancer, make informed choices, promote a higher quality of life, and ensure that no one has to live through cancer alone. PLTC serves cancer survivors, their families, and others who care about them with:
• eleven skillfully led peer support groups in Albuquerque and surrounding areas
• expert training for support volunteers and group facilitators, of which PLTC is the only national trainer for Native Americans
• peer support contact persons statewide
• one-to-one matching of people with others who have faced similar situations
• Telephone Lifeline, a toll-free number offering compassion, support, information, and referral
• People Living Through Cancer, an informative quarterly journal
• New Mexico’s largest lending library of cancer-related materials for health-care consumers
• an annual statewide cancer survivorship conference
• workshops, seminars, and presentations on topics such as current scientific information, innovative treatment, and coping skills
• statewide outreach and education to individuals, organizations and other health-care providers, including American Indians, Hispanics, African Americans, those living in rural areas, and other underserved populations
• New Mexico Leadership Council, a forum for leaders of peer support programs throughout the state to exchange ideas and provide input for the state government’s New Mexico Cancer Plan
• Native American Leadership Council, a national forum for leaders of cancer peer support in American Indian and Alaska Native communities
To provide culturally competent programs, PLTC hires and recruits volunteers and staff who speak Spanish. The organization also maintains an active relationship with local American Indian populations and the Indian Health Service to foster relationships, to distribute literature,and to reach and train peer support volunteers.
For more information, contact PLTC at: 505-242-3263
or, outside the Albuquerque area, dial 1-888-441-4439