Inquiries pour into Las Isabelas from around the country, suggesting to Duron and others that the need for the group's services exceeds its ability to deliver. "Our only really big problem is that we have not been able to serve as many people as we would like," Duron said.
At the county hospital, Damiana Perez came across a brochure about Las Isabelas -- the first group to explain to her, she said, that she might be able to live with cancer. She contacted the organization and soon learned that breast cancer was not, as she and others in her community sometimes feared, contagious. While it is known that Latinas already have a higher breast cancer mortality rate than white women, it is difficult to get a precise figure because so many death certificates list Latino victims as white.
In the last three years, about 12% of Las Isabelas' clients have died of breast cancer.
One day, Perez visited the group's headquarters in a defunct mortuary in downtown San Jose and said she would like to meet "Ysabel." As it happened, Duron was the only one working in the office that day.
"So much for my famous face," she said wryly.
There is so much to do that Duron recently turned over the administrative reins to Mary Rose Delgadillo, a nurse and longtime women's health activist. Duron will remain as chief fund-raiser, communications director and cheerleader-in-chief, intent on bringing the message of Las Isabelas to as many Latinas as possible.
The energy of the organization is palpable, filling up the offices that Duron has painted in wild, Frida Kahlo colors. The mortuary owner loves his property's transformation. His mother died of breast cancer, he told Duron, and she knew nothing about the disease.