I began a close walk with God when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998 at the age of 45. My first thought was that I was going to die and I was afraid I had not done what God wanted me to do on earth. Attend church yes, work on ministries –yes, I was very busy in the church, but was it for my enjoyment or God’s will. I found myself praying for extra years so that I could listen to God and do the Will of God.
I found a lump in my breast during breast-self exam. After a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, I began a mission to spread the gospel of “Early Detection” in the underserved communities. Statistics showed that African American and underserved women have the highest death rate and shortest survival rate of all ethnicities in the US.
God gave me a vision and a mission to support women, as they battle the devastating disease of breast cancer. I had awesome support from my church family, immediate family and friends. I felt every woman should have this type of support.
It took me ten months to get through surgery and treatments. I was sick, lost my hair, eyebrows, appetite, weight and I spent a lot of time in bed. My blood cells stayed low so I had to get weekly Procrit [a medication used to treat anemia in some people receiving chemotherapy for certain types of cancer] shots and give myself Nupergen [a medication which helps the bone marrow produce white blood cells which help the body fight infection] shots ten days out of the month. One time, I looked at myself in the mirror and asked myself, “Am I going to beat this thing called cancer?” I recited daily Psalm 118:17, “I shall not die but live and declare the works of the Lord.”
My own experiences help me bring a complete, personalized and objective perspective of the pain, sorrow, medical disparities, and lack of sensitivity suffered by some women fighting to live. In the Central New Jersey area, I found no support and a lack of culturally sensitive material for African American women dealing with breast cancer, so in 2000, with 3 other breast cancer survivors, became President and co-founder of Sisters Network of central New Jersey (SNCNJ). SNCNJ provides education, awareness, monthly support meetings, events and special programs for seniors and teens, in addition to financial support to qualified women.
In the past 17 years, 42 women from SNCNJ have succumbed to this dreaded disease, nine have experienced recurrences and many are diagnosed under 40 years old. I am determined to advocate until undeserved women no longer have the highest death and shortest survival rates. I thank God every day for the extra years, and I am always reminded of the Francis of Assisi quote, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”
Sisters Network of Central New Jersey
1201 Hamilton Street Somerset, NJ 08873
Editor's note: These stories are part of a series written by staff members of Franklin Township. The stories will explore some of the wonderful places and faces that make up the community of Franklin Township.