Meet an Instructor: Sarena Perez

The Rivkin Center’s Education Program

The Rivkin Center’s education program provides free health education workshops. Instructors educate women about their breast and ovarian health and cancer risks.

Say hello to Sarena Perez, one of our instructors and an ovarian cancer survivor.


  1. Where are you from? Sacramento, CA
  2. Where do you live now/what does a typical day look like for you? I live in Oakland and a typical day for me is not quite so typical! I am self-employed and a student, so I’m either running to a work site or school, studying, or relaxing at home with my mini-dachshund Pierre. In my free time I like sitting around Lake Merritt and hanging out with friends.
  3. What do you do for fun? I really like traveling! I have been to over 20 countries in my lifetime and my goal is to add as more every year. I also like listening to music and karaoke.
  4. What is your favorite mantra? It is what it is.
  5. What is your favorite drink? Mojito
  6. What advice would you give to your younger self? Don’t worry about fitting in, just be yourself and follow your heart.
  7. What are you most proud of? Surviving stage III cancer!
  8. Where has been your favorite place to travel? Cuba and Paris probably, but it’s so hard to choose!
  9. What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you? I can cross only one eye!
  10. Where do you go to find inspiration? People that came before me are a great influence. Especially artists that were really original in their time.
  11. Who inspires you? David Bowie.


  1. What inspired you to get involved with Rivkin? I met another Rivkin Center educator and she shared with me all the good work that was being done, so I was pretty much motivated from the start. I want to make sure that other women get educated about these diseases so they don’t remain ignorant like I was.
  2. What Is your favorite memory from one of the educational workshops you led? There was one time we had a small, but lively crowd and since it was so intimate, we treated it more like a conversation. The attendees were able to talk to me and I was able to really explain things well.
  3. How can people help support someone going through cancer? Do NOT tell them to “be positive”. Listen. They’re going through emotions you couldn’t even imagine right now and most likely, they don’t have anyone to really let out their feelings to about all the really difficult topics, like death. Allow them to share their fears and just listen. When I was going through my cancer, we didn’t think I would make it and every time I wanted to discuss things like putting my mothers name on my bank accounts so they would have access to those funds, my mother would just start yelling at me and a lot of people said I was “negative” for acknowledging a real possibility. Don’t do that.
  4. What is the most important thing you want people to know about ovarian and breast cancer? That cancer also happens to young people. I was the first person in my family to get cancer and I was diagnosed at 32. It can happen to you. Get educated.


Want to learn more about becoming an instructor or sharing your story as a survivor? Contact us.

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