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The Voice of the Black Community

Life and Religion

Sunday’s best includes a breast health message
Church campaign stresses awareness
Published Thursday, April 26, 2012 8:17 am
by Ryanne Persinger

Vertina Newman lost her mother to breast cancer in 2003. She was diagnosed two years prior, but the disease spread so rapidly that it took her life at age 61.

Pink Sunday, a campaign sponsored by Komen Charlotte, brings breast health awareness to black churches.

“She actually had an early diagnosis; however she had a triple negative form of breast cancer,” Newman, 37 said. “We didn’t have a history of breast cancer in our family. My mother was the first.”

Triple negative breast cancer usually does not respond to certain treatments, is more likely to be aggressive and to recur than other types, according to the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation.

“Because I lost my mother to breast cancer I get my mammograms yearly,” Newman said. “I am very diligent about my breast health.”
Newman wants all women - especially black women - to be cognizant about their breasts.

For two years Newman has been chair of Susan G. Komen for the Cure Charlotte’s Pink Sunday. This year’s event is April 29 and aims to help educate black women through churches about the importance of early detection in the fight against breast cancer. This is its third year.

“This is the best way for us to reach African American women – in the churches,” said Neel Stallings, acting executive director of Komen Charlotte.

A total of 157 churches are participating, including 61 in Mecklenburg County. Each church can choose to host its own program, whether it’s having a breast cancer survivor speak, hosting a reception with pink tea or cupcakes, printing a bulletin on pink paper or having its members wear pink to service.

“One church even did a pink pajama party,” said Debra Anderson, a Pink Sunday committee member and breast health educator at Presbyterian Hospital. “One reason we’re doing Pink Sunday is to encourage all women to have a mammogram, especially African American women. About only half of African American women in Mecklenburg County are having a mammogram each year.”

According to Komen Charlotte, 52 percent of black women in Mecklenburg have annual mammograms, leaving them at a higher death rate from the disease along with being diagnosed at later stages.

“We want women to know a mammogram is just an X-ray,” Anderson said. “It’s just an X-ray of the breast. It’s quick, it’s safe and it’s a low dose of radiation.”

Reba Whaley knows the importance of mammograms all too well. When she was diagnosed at age 40 in 2007, she was not doing self-exams, going to the doctor regularly or getting mammograms.

By the time she went to the doctor she had a 5.8 centimeter-sized tumor in her right breast – the size of a lime. Whaley, who had no health insurance, credits Komen Charlotte with saving her life through grants and other aid to pay for her treatment.

She shared her story with her church family at First Baptist Church-West in the first year of Pink Sunday and attended another church last year.
“After I spoke I was approached by two little boys and they wanted to know if they heard me right about ways to get a free mammogram,” Whaley said. “They said they wanted the information for their sister who had found a lump. I thought to myself this is what Pink Sunday is all about helping people find resources. It was all worth it for that sister and those two little boys.”

Newman said on Sunday her church, Friendship Missionary Baptist, is asking the congregation to wear pink and fans will be handed out with information about breast health. There are three services: 7:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.

“African Americans don’t go get themselves checked, but they are the matriarchs of the family and before they can take care of everyone else they have to take care of themselves,” Newman said.

Although Breast Cancer Awareness Month isn’t until October, Newman said April was the chosen month to host the event to keep women educated year round.

“Race For the Cure is in October and so is breast health awareness,” Newman added. “We wanted something else for you to think about. We’re giving women a year round feel of bringing awareness to breast health education.”

For more information, call (704) 347-8181 or email pinksunday@komencharlotte.org.


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