Guest Post by: Andrea Fey
When Darlene Matthews was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in 2001, she felt alone, scared and she believed her diagnosis was a death sentence.
“The African American community doesn’t know much about breast cancer. We don’t speak on the subject as much as we should,” explained Matthews. “I didn’t have anybody to go to that could show me that everything would look and be alright. My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was a little girl. All I could remember was the ugly side of this disease. I had not realized how much things had changed since that time because nobody really talked about it.”
It’s time to start the dialogue.
On Thursday, August 2, Komen Columbus and the Key Bank Foundation will host the Columbus Breast Health Summit to raise breast cancer awareness in the African American community. Although African American women have a lower incidence of breast cancer than white women, they are more likely to die from breast cancer at every age. All racial and ethnic groups are more likely than African American women to survive for five years after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Through the Breast Health Summit, our hope is to bring this issue to the forefront. African Americans die from this disease in greater numbers than other races due to late screenings. Whether that is due to a lack of knowledge, lack of money or lack of insurance or access, we need to make a change. Early detection and awareness are critical to fighting this disease, and the earlier someone is diagnosed, the better their chances for survival. Currently the chance of survival when someone is diagnosed with early stage breast cancer is 98%.
Matthews agrees and is rallying women who go to her Beauty All Over Salon or whomever she meets to attend.
“Breast cancer is not a death sentence. It’s a disease. It’s a disease we can beat,” said Matthews.
Local Survivor to Speak at Summit
You will always find Linda Parks wearing something “pink,” even if it doesn’t perfectly match her outfit. It’s not just because she loves the color, she wants people to ask why she’s wearing pink so she can share her breast cancer diagnosis and recovery with others, in hopes to educate someone about the disease and encourage them to get screened. Linda a keynote survivor speaker at the Breast Health Summit, was diagnosed with DCIS Stage 2 breast cancer in 2008. While she was fortunate to not have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation, her breast cancer fight opened her eyes and opened the door for her to advocate for early detection and survivorship.
“I get a lot of questions about breast cancer and I find that few women know what a mammogram is or how they can get help in our community,” said Parks, a Newark, Ohio resident.
Dedicated to inspire and empower the women in her community, Linda organized a breast cancer candlelight program with poetry and song in October. The program celebrated those who were survivors and those who passed away. She has also organized an informational and empowerment day for women in her community during October, Breast Cancer Awareness month. Wellness and education continue to be her focus in her fight to end breast cancer forever.
“This summit is a wonderful opportunity to ask questions, to learn and build community,” said Parks.
Breast Health Summit- Komen Columbus
Men Get Involved in the Fight
Along with Darlene and Linda, Ron Coleman – a male breast cancer survivor – continually advocates for breast cancer awareness in the community.
When Ron was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in 2006, he felt as if he had no one to turn to. A feeling, he says, no one should experience. Since then he has made it his personal mission to open up new avenues of education and awareness in the community. Ron recently spoke to The Sister Network in San Francisco promoting breast cancer awareness and plans to attend the NBCC Project Lead at the end of July to further grow his understanding of the disease. He feels that the more knowledgeable he is, the more he can educate and help others.
The Breast Health Summit is essential in inspiring African American men and women to, in Ron’s words, “be their own best advocate.” “Breast cancer can happen to anyone, you can’t be afraid to ask questions and you can’t be afraid to get screened, said Coleman.
The Summit will offer attendees the opportunity to do just that- to ask questions of a panel of health system leaders and discuss these issues with civic leaders in central Ohio, as well as to hear the stories of these models of education and outreach.
We invite you to join Darlene, Linda and Ron at the Breast Health Summit on Thursday, August 2 from 8 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. at the Embassy Suites, 2886 Airport Drive, Columbus 43219. The event is free but you must register. REGISTER TODAY
For information on the event email firstname.lastname@example.org.