CLIENT STORIES

Many lives, many stories, one goal.

Hulda

When Hulda first came to Shanti as a client in 2001, she was just beginning to find her voice. She grew up in an environment of violence where she was subject to emotional, mental, and physical abuse and made to feel as though she didn’t matter. At an early age, Hulda had accepted that she was alive only to suffer.

Connecting with Shanti was the beginning of a healthier, happier life for Hulda. From the beginning, while Hulda was still struggling to find herself and her worth, Shanti valued and accepted her for who she was. Over time, Hulda realized she was good enough even if she did not feel like she had reached her potential. Shanti’s acceptance of Hulda helped her find acceptance within herself.

Hulda

Today, Hulda is connected to Shanti’s network of care. She meets with Care Navigators and Peer Support Volunteers. She attends a Shanti support group specifically for women living with HIV, where she has the opportunity to speak about her life with her peers. Through these social gatherings and forms of outreach, Hulda is able to build trusting relationships.

Hulda now shares her story through active participation as a board member and panelist for many organizations in the community, including Quan Yin Healing Arts, Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Diseases (WORLD) Committee, and the Black Health Center of Excellence. Hulda’s ability to grow her voice and share her story has helped countless others, and she has empowered herself in the process. Shanti offered Hulda the support and safe space she needed to gain self-confidence and strength. If you meet Hulda for the first time today, there is no sign of the shy person she once was. She is now a bright light, full of life, stories, laughter, and acceptance.

Luisa

My name is Luisa and have been a client of Shanti’s Women’s Cancer Program for more than eight years. I was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago and had my first surgery shortly after my diagnosis. My coordinator at Kaiser gave me a folder of resources for breast cancer patients, and I decided to contact Shanti because they were the most accessible. I was in my early 60s and still working. I was so depressed and worried.

As a Shanti client, I attended different activities like Tea Time groups, art therapy classes, and massage. During my recovery, I retired and my life started to revolve around my two young granddaughters.

Luisa

Four years ago, I was unfortunately diagnosed with breast cancer in the opposite breast. Again, I was depressed and worried. So, I contacted Shanti again for help because the care that I received from Shanti in the past was helpful and my Care Navigator listened to what I needed. The staff was friendly and easy to talk to. My Care Navigator connected me to Meals-On-Wheels for temporary meal delivery. I received comfortable garments to wear during my post-surgery recovery. I learned about different activities at UCSF Cancer Resource Center. Now that I’m retired and my granddaughters are older, I am able to stay very involved with Shanti’s supportive programs. Not only have I attended groups like Nutrition Education and Cancer Divas letters to cancer writing support group, I also teach other Shanti clients how to crochet and I emcee our Mother’s Day celebration.

I learned that eating right, being physically active and free from stress are very essential in fighting back cancer. My Cancer Divas and I didn’t know each other at the beginning, but we have grown so close and trusting of one another. Through Shanti, I had the pleasure of meeting other cancer survivors and was able to connect, support, and develop friendships. We are able to non-judgmentally express ourselves through our writing and really listen to each other’s experiences. Having friends to talk to and feeling cared for is the best medicine for a cancer survivor on her difficult journey. Being with Shanti makes me realize I am not alone. Shanti also gives me the chance to see the beauty of San Francisco by creating a walking group. I love going on walks across the Golden Gate Bridge with my Shanti peers.

I try to advocate for other cancer patients’ needs. I always tell them to call Shanti, especially when they need more help than I can give. My close friend, who’s also a Shanti client, has been connected to financial, food, and transportation assistance. Helping people gives me strength. Though I don’t have cancer in my breasts at this time, I am still being treated for a rare type of blood cancer called Polycythemia Vera. It will be part of my life forever.

Shanti continues to help me in so many ways and has given me lasting friendships with many of the other Shanti clients. I have had the opportunity to develop new skills and grow in new directions.

Alexandra & Otis

Otis is a 13-year-old white and tan Jack Russell Terrier. Alexandra is a 48-year-old woman. They are the best of friends.

Alexandra lives with multiple disabilities and has extremely limited mobility. At four months old, Otis came into Alexandra’s life as a service animal, and he has been by her side ever since. Otis is small enough to hop on Alexandra’s lap and stay close to her as they zoom around in her electric wheelchair. Spend a few minutes with them, and you’d see how much the two absolutely adore each other.

“My life would have no meaning without Otis,” says Alexandra. “He means the world to me. He gets me to be more open and outgoing. I suffer from anxiety and depression, Otis helps me to get out of that mode and get out of the house to meet new people.”

Alexandra and Otis (dog)

Like so many PAWS clients, Alexandra lives on less than $1,000 a month. PAWS provides services that enable Alexandra to keep Otis healthy. These services include pet food and flea medication at our Pet Food and Supply Bank, annual wellness exams, and up to $200 in veterinary service vouchers each year. Alexandra and Otis have regularly visited our free Ask the Vet Clinics, which provide an opportunity to consult with our Volunteer Veterinarians about pet health concerns. And to help keep Otis clean, Alexandra has brought him to our free dog washes where volunteers, often from local companies, bathe our clients’ dogs at Pet Food Express.

Alexandra herself is an active volunteer in the community – she is a leader in her building’s tenant association and was recently nominated for a prestigious role on a citywide council.

“I am so grateful to PAWS and its generous donors. If I didn’t have PAWS, I wouldn’t be able to care for Otis. PAWS keeps him happy and he keeps me happy,” says Alexandra.

Shirley

Shirley is a 96-year-old woman who spends most of her time alone with her kitty in her condo she has rented since 1972. These days, she doesn’t leave her home often or get as much social interaction as she once did. She suffers from health challenges that can accompany aging, such as nerve damage, deteriorating vision, and significant hearing loss. About two years ago, she came to Shanti after she learned about our LGBTQ Aging & Abilities Support Network. We first connected her with a staff member who provides warmth and compassion as he helps navigate her care and accompany her to appointments and errands. We also connected her to our Pets Are Wonderful Support program to provide pet food and other resources so she can keep her cat Missa happy and healthy.

Shirley and her Peer Support Volunteer Ashley

To provide additional companionship that helps reduce Shirley’s isolation and loneliness, we matched her with a Shanti Peer Support Volunteer, Ashley. One or two afternoons a week, Ashley visits Shirley in her home to give much needed company and support. Though separated in age by more than half a century, the two have no shortage of fun together. Mostly, they sit and talk and spend a great deal of time laughing. Shirley tells Ashley about her day and stories of her past. Occasionally, they watch the news together, and Shirley loves it when Ashley reads to her—especially poetry by Alice Walker.

“I can’t put into words what having Ashley visit me means,” says Shirley.

Shirley is grateful for the myriad ways Shanti has supported her, reducing her isolation and providing critical resources for her and her beloved kitty companion.