Four words that change your life, “You have breast cancer.”

November 9, 2023

By: Sylvia Ortiz-Cooper

“Invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in an estimated 297,790 women” in 2023. Many of those women are Latina and Spanish-speaking, adding another layer of complexity in one of the most challenging times in a recently diagnosed person’s life. It is crucial to find resources and support, but where does one begin?

En La Lucha A Sobrevivir (ELLAS) (translation: In the fight to survive) is a breast cancer awareness and support group, an initiative of The Resurrection Project (TRP.) ELLAS was founded in 2012 by a group of women whose mission is to improve the quality of life for cancer survivors and advocate for them to bridge the health gap for uninsured and undocumented women diagnosed with breast cancer. Today, ELLAS and the community count on a group of health promoters who are breast cancer survivors who coordinate workshops and breast cancer community outreach for thousands of survivors.

Araceli Lucio, ELLAS Founder, and Community Health Advocate Coordinator began the group after seeing women in the community diagnosed with breast cancer or in remission looking for a support network. Since 2012, Lucio and her group of survivors have created a space for Spanish-speaking women to find resources, support, and a safe space for women to discuss their health, barriers, and referrals. 

“In the Spanish community, it’s taboo to talk about cancer sometimes,” said Juanita Arroyo, ELLAS Community Health Advocate and Breast Cancer Survivor. “ELLAS tries to bridge that gap for women and remind them that they don’t have to deal with cancer alone. The group has meetings and outreach events to spread this message.”

Partnerships that focus on research have been essential to the ELLAS community. We are advocating and supporting cancer survivors with the University of Illinois Cancer Center and Dr. Yamilé Molina. The partnership with Dr. Molina began in 2016 when the group was asked to support by offering educational classes and participation in two research studies, Latina Lideres en Salud (LaLiSA) and Mammograms Available Due to Resources and Education (MADRE). Both studies have requirements to participate to be eligible.

On October 1, 2023, more than 200 people attended the annual ELLAS breast cancer walk-a-thon and raised nearly $7,000. It is through partnerships and community that ELLAS can continue its mission to improve the quality of life for cancer survivors by creating a space for women where they can find moral support, resources for their recovery and return to everyday life through education, patient navigation, political advocacy, and leadership development. 

Studies show that early detection reduces the risk of death from breast cancer and increases treatment options. ELLAS knows the importance of community health advocates and providing health literacy to Spanish speakers to improve their quality of care. 

Today, ELLAS’ resources support 52 survivors through full-time staff, 30 health navigators, and 44 volunteers.

ELLAS has recently been featured on Telemundo Chicago, Univision Chicago, CBS Chicago, and WGN.

For more information about ELLAS resources, workshops, and events, visit

To learn more about The Resurrection Project, visit

The Resurrection Project (TRP) builds trusting relationships to educate and propel individuals, immigrants, and families to achieve their social and economic aspirations, stable homes, and equitable participation in their community. TRP is a leading provider of affordable housing, financial education, and immigration services on Chicago’s Southwest side.

For more than three decades TRP, has worked to improve the lives of individuals and families by creating wealth, building assets, and engaging residents to be catalysts for change. Rooted in the Pilsen community, TRP’s impact now extends across the City of Chicago and through the State of Illinois; we are making steady progress towards leveraging and preserving more than $1 billion in community wealth by 2025.