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How this cancer survivor is helping others battling the disease

Posted at 4:27 PM, Mar 06, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- Just about every closet in Sharon Rivera-Sanchez's home is filled to the max. She's loading those must-have necessities into her pink wagon

Through her non-profit, "Saving Pennies For A Cure," Rivera-Sanchez and her volunteers create care baskets for cancer patients going through treatment in Richmond. The hope is that with the baskets, the patients don't have to choose between paying for groceries or a co-pay.

"This is what we're going to do and hopefully, this is going to carry you three or four months,” Rivera-Sanchez said.

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She knows the financial and emotional toll a cancer diagnosis can bring. She was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer after a routine mammogram in 2015.

"I honestly think I went into shock. I think I didn't hear anything,” Rivera-Sanchez said.

She would undergo a lumpectomy, chemo, and radiation.

"I like to say I'm cancer free and in remission, but with triple-negative breast cancer don't close your eye on it," Rivera-Sanchez said.

She admits she fears cancer could come back, but it's not stopping her from being a staunch advocate for survivors.

She sits on a half dozen boards including for the National Cancer Institute. And she's even taken her voice to Capitol Hill.

She’s pushing lawmakers to pass a Comprehensive Survivorship Bill that will help patients "after" treatment.

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“We need more than just okay you're done. You go to over 100 appointments. It's like you're done. It's like what do I do now?” Rivera-Sanchez said.

Her mission goes beyond breast cancer. Her brother Clarence, a photographer at Virginia Motorsports Park in Dinwiddie, died last year of colon cancer.

Rivera-Sanchez said he had been battling the disease for six months before he even told her the news.

“He died 37 days later,” Rivera-Sanchez said.

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She's turned her pain into purpose.

With a seed grant from VCU Massey Cancer Center, Rivera-Sanchez is going into under-served communities to spread the word about colon cancer and getting checked.

“Meet people where they are. Never forget where you've come from. Go out there and tell them. That’s my tag. Get your butt checked or you might regret,” Rivera-Sanchez said.

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Rivera-Sanchez is also a big supporter of clinical trials. She's been a part of trials that she said helped her during her cancer journey.

She urged more Black and Brown people to be involved in trials too.

“It can be a prevention trial. It can be an exercise trial. It can be a medicine trial,” Rivera-Sanchez said.

Rivera-Sanchez will be back on Capitol Hill this week pushing for the Breast Cancer Survivorship bill to be passed.

Depend on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for in-depth coverage of this important local story. Anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

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