Edited and photos by Floyd Galloway
Inspired by personal testimonies of overcoming breast cancer, attendees at the fifth annual Coalition of Blacks Against Breast Cancer (CBBC) Celebration and Keeping It Pink Fashion Show experienced stories of triumph, living and thriving in life after breast cancer. Held on Saturday, September 26 at the Hope Center on the campus of First Institutional Baptist Church, the annual event draws attention to the importance of awareness, detection and treatment relating to African Americans and breast health.
The annual CBBC celebration provides education and awareness drawing attention to treatment options and the unique challenges African Americans experience in treating breast cancer. The event helps promote better understanding of health care disparities among African American breast cancer patients. Through their personal stories, CBBC members help educate the community about breast health issues including the powerful story related by Allison Brown and Simone Gray, two family members both battling breast cancer, and winning.
ABC 15’s Susan Casper returned as emcee of the event for a second year. Attendees were treated to a preview of the November production of The Journey: Living Cancer out Loud, by Dr. Olga Davis.
The vignette featured a portrayal of Brown, portrayed by actor Tenisha Baca, and another CBBC member and breast cancer survivor Janet Shobe, portrayed by Larissa Brewington.
Nellie Daniels, a two-time breast cancer survivor, said life has new meaning to her and that she chooses to take positive actions like attending Celebrate Recovery Ministries and participating in CBBC and other coalitions.
Donna Johnson said about her diagnosis, “We always say it will never happen to me and then it happens. I had this slight pain in my right breast near the areola, and my primary care physician thought it necessary for a 39-year-old to have her first mammogram.”
Ann Walker’s incredible journey began one day sitting in church. “Believe it or not my journey began in church one Sunday morning in October 2011. My pastor came out of the pulpit pointing his finger in my direction, as he stood in front of me saying ‘the Holy Spirit wants me to pray for you right now. God is up to something in your situation.’”
The Keeping It Pink Fashion show, produced by Joy Johnson, owner, A Joyous Event Planning and Management, LLC., showcased eight CBBC members and survivors including Brown, Gray, Shobe, Johnson, and Walker, as well as Gina Bowser, Charla Clicquot, Deloris Mix, and Amber Wilson.
Wilson stunned the crowd in a purple dress sheath with a cowl neckline and a chiffon overlay by popular Italian designer Vince Camuto. DeLois Mix, first diagnosed with breast cancer in her left breast 28 years ago, and again last year, served up “classic” in this three piece ensemble comprised of a black camisole, black pants and a black and white swing coat with a belt in the back. Dillard’s at Chandler Fashion Center generously donated all outfits for the show. Read more about each of their diagnoses and their journey at www.cbbcaz.org.
The event was made possible by the dedication and commitment of the CBBC members; board of directors—Michele Halyard, Marion Kelly, Gina Bowser, Mieko Vernon and Madelyn Thomas; and sponsoring organizations The Phoenix Chapter of the Links, Inc., Gamma Mu Boule, and the Mayo Clinic. The Goode Wright Gentles Agency provided event production support.
Breast Cancer and African Americans
The CBBC’s mission is to provide high-quality, reliable information and support to black breast cancer patients within the Phoenix metropolitan area, and to educate the community about breast cancer prevention, diagnosis and screening.
The Phoenix population is approximately three percent black, which translates to 300,000 out of Arizona’s four million residents. Within the Phoenix metropolitan area, the percentage of black women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer is lower than that of Caucasian women. However, the rate at which black women are diagnosed with stage III or IV illness is nearly twice that of Caucasian women.
Nationally, one in eight women, as well as a minority of men, will be diagnosed with breast cancer. The survival rate in African American women lags behind other ethnic groups. Although breast cancer death rates have decreased since the 1990s, most of the decline has been in white female patients. African American female breast cancer patients are more likely to be diagnosed with aggressive forms of the disease.
There are a number of factors that potentially contribute to poorer outcomes in African Americans.
For instance, studies have shown that African American women do not have yearly mammography screening as consistently as white females, which results in later detection of more advanced tumors. The larger the cancer, the greater the number of lymph nodes involved, and the higher the stage of disease at diagnosis. Higher stages at diagnosis translate into lower survival rates. Some studies show that when African American women receive mammography screening as frequently as white women, the difference in survival rate disappears.
Some African American patients receive inadequate or delayed treatment for breast cancer due to lack of insurance, lack of knowledge of appropriate care, or other factors. Certain studies have shown that African American women have lower surgery rates than white, Hispanic, or Asian women. Also, although it is fairly standard to receive radiation therapy after undergoing breast-conserving surgery, a higher proportion of African American women fail to do so in comparison to other ethnic groups. This can lead to higher chances of cancer recurrence. The presence of other health factors, such as diabetes and obesity, may impact a patient’s health and lower the chances for survival. Learn more at www.cbbcaz.org.