Circulo de Vida is an incredible organization that has helped so many women, men, and families in our community deal with the challenges of cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship. I have spoken with innumerable women over the years who have recounted how Carmen Ortiz, the Executive Director, and support group members have assisted with information and resources at just the right time. The program is linked with the breast cancer clinic in the public hospital so women learn of Circulo’s services at the point of diagnosis. Carmen and her wonderful staff and volunteers assure that there is a friendly face in clinic to let newly diagnosed Latinas know that they are not alone. Importantly, Circulo offers a range of services for women and their families so that those uncomfortable with support groups can receive one-on-one peer support and in-home visits, while those looking for more social and community support can attend weekly support and educational meetings. The support model developed by Carmen Ortiz at Circulo de Vida has been replicated in other community based organizations across the city, largely because of Carmen’s generosity and commitment to addressing the needs of families dealing with cancer from all communities and backgrounds. Carmen has shared her training materials with other programs, and consulted with those under development. Her work, and that of Circulo, is changing lives and improving our community in essential ways.
I have known of Circulo de Vida for at least 5 years. It is a great resource to Latina women and men with cancer and their families. They provide emotional support, information, and resources. Carmen and her 'angelitas' (little angels - peer support counselors) are dedicated to helping people affected by cancer. They do not charge for their services - so their doors are open to everyone. It's a great organization!
Over the years as someone who works in behavioral cancer research I have had the opportunity in the context of patient interviews to hear first hand how Circulo de Vida transforms the lives of cancer patients and their families. By creating a supportive community, accompanying patients from a cancer diagnosis through whatever path the disease takes, patients feel strengthened. Being part of an organization that provides comprehensive social services, they feel seen and heard, they feel their dignity restored and no longer feel defined nor limited by a disease. I’ve seen patients thrive before and after reaching remission under the support of Circulo de Vida and I’ve known people who have departed due to cancer. In all these cases the time patients spent as part of this community brought happiness at a difficult time, peace in the midst of despair, and the certitude that they will not be forgotten.
Circulo de Vida is a haven of support and information for Latina women and their families facing cancer. The staff are professional and compassionate, no one is turned away.
Dr. Carmen Ortiz is the unflagging energy who keeps everything moving.
This organization was the first to provide counseling and medical stewardship to the Latino community and is being emulated by local community groups. Dr. Ortiz acts as a consultant to answer questions and provide direction for new and ongoing groups.
Having visited the clinic, I can tell you the sense of warmth, support and professionalism makes you feel relieved, relaxed and welcomed the moment you walk in.
This is a service that truly holds the patient as the most important part of the equation. It deserves monetary support to be able to expand these most needed services.
I have known Carmen Ortiz for 30 years and was with her when she went through her battle with breast cancer. She was, as always, brave and focused, finding out all she could about her particular type of cancer. At that time resources were scarce and physicians were not accustomed to having a patient ask questions and demand answers. Carmen did both. When she heard about the limited resources for Spanish speaking Latinas, she went into action. Carmen used her own breast cancer experience to help and guide non-English speaking Latinas find their way through the maze of treatment options and a complex and bewildering medical system. She is truly an amazing person.
CDV has been a longstanding community partner of San Francisco General Hospitals' Comprehensive Breast Care Program. Under Carmen Ortiz's superb leadership, our interdisciplinary breast clinic has been able to expand seamless breast cancer patient navigation and emotional support services for our Latina patients with a more personalized and culturally relevant approach. After receiving a diagnosis of breast cancer, CDV bridges the gap for a patient in need of a closer connection to their own community resources with both group and 1:1 based emotional and practical support. This peer-based model has been highly successful and we are so fortunate to work in partnership with Carmen and her team in ensuring that breast cancer survivorship needs are being met at multiple levels.
As a palliative care social worker for a home care agency in SF, I have used Circulo de Vida as the best resource for counseling and emotional support services for Latino/as who have been diagnosed with cancer. Sad to say but there is no other bilingual-bicultural support of this kind in SF. That's why the services offered by Circulo are so valuable. I have had patients who have told me that the only person they have to talk to as they go through chemotherapy or radiation is the Circulo counselor. Circulo de Vida is an important and greatly needed service to the Latino community in SF.
Circulo de Vida has for many years now done amazing things on a shoestring budget. The organization, under the direction of Dr. Carmen Ortiz, has stayed remarkably clear in purpose and resilient in the face of an always challenging financial environment for non-profits. The staff and vounteers of the center are extraordinarily and unwaveringly dedicated to delivering a unique and life-affirming experience for Latinas with a cancer diagnosis. With thanks for all that you do.
When I first went to work as an oncology social worker at San Francisco General Hospital some 20 years ago, there was no support program for our many Spanish-speaking patients. It soon became clear that the need was great as people spontaneously began to find and support each other while waiting to see their doctor or during their chemo infusions. Not long after that, the first group was formed which eventually became Circulo de Vida. Over the years, I made many many referrals to Circulo, always confident that whether the needs were for practical help or emotional support or both, each patient would find a warm, reassuring, and culturally competent person ready to listen and help in their own language. Circulo's program to train former patients to work as peer counselors for new clients is just one of countless examples of the deep roots they have established in the Spanish-speaking communities of the Bay Area.
Circulo de Vida staff help translate for the patient and physician at the time of diagnosis, offer home and hospital visits during surgery and treatment, provide a wide range of Spanish-language support groups, as well as case management and referral to other programs. It has been an honor and privilege to work for Circulo. The people who walk through our doors fill us with hope by way of their courage during a very difficult time in their lives. There is no other organization quite like Circulo.