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Billie Crino's battle against breast cancer has taken her as far as the steps of Capitol Hill, but it's the fight she fought at home in Chula Vista that's had the greatest impact on the lives of others.
Crino's work with breast cancer began long before she was diagnosed with it. After seeing several friends pass away from the disease, she made it her mission to help find a cure. Working with the Women's Cancer Task Force, Crino lobbied congressmen and senators in Washington, D.C., for more funding for research, as well as marched in support of women with the disease. With no family history of breast cancer, Crino never imagined she'd be one of the people she was fighting for.
On a morning that began like any other, Crino's hand brushed across her chest while she was getting dressed, but this time, she noticed an unusual lump, which a mammogram and biopsy confirmed was breast cancer.
Soon after being diagnosed, Crino began attending Sharp Chula Vista's breast cancer support group. Remembering the Parkinson's disease patients her mother helped through the support group she facilitated when Crino was younger, she knew the positive effect a network of support could have on her experience with cancer.
"I knew a lot about breast cancer through my political work, but from a personal standpoint, I had a lot of questions," Crino said. "I felt like a support group would be the best place to find answers."
Crino attended the group throughout her treatment at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. When her appetite disappeared, she knew it was normal because her fellow group members had experienced the same thing; when her hair fell out, she was given recommendations for where to get a wig. And most importantly, when she felt scared, she was comforted.
"From the first group meeting, I knew I was among friends," Crino said. "I looked forward to attending every week."
After successfully completing her treatment, which included surgery and chemotherapy, Crino decided to continue attending the support group each week — this time as a shoulder to lean on. In the four years since she beat breast cancer, Crino has attended nearly every group meeting, where she answers questions from newly diagnosed women, offers tips she learned during her ordeal and provides friendship to those who want and need it. In addition, she stays active as the director of community outreach for Healing Odyssey, a therapeutic recovery program for female cancer survivors.
Find a San Diego Oncologist
To find a Sharp-affiliated doctor, search for a San Diego oncologist specializing in breast cancer or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm.