Women from Women of Color Breast Cancer Survivor’s Support Project. In no particular order: Almeta Washington, Verba Harbrict, Joyce Evans, Debbie Campbell, June Murphy, Mary Battle, June Smith, Jean Hartfield, Charlotte Mills, Peggy Goods, Jackie Furby, Evelyn Walton, Irene Tyler, Charlene Inghram, Gloria Grimes Cockell, Joan Sampson, Madeline Wilson, Denise Robinson and Debra Potter. (Photo By: Brian Carter)
Cancer survivor project fundraises for EIF Revlon Run/Walk and supports women with cancer and survivors
I was snuggled between a large group of women ranging from 40-80+ years old. All had warm smiles and friendly presences. They chatted amongst each other as friends…some holding keepsakes of their accomplishments. These women have all traveled down a similar road, which is why they all come together as cancer survivors and supporters. These women are known as Women of Color Breast Cancer Survivor’s Support Project (WOC).
Women of Color is “an organization of committed compassionate, resourceful women working diligently with passion, purpose and integrity to help eradicate breast cancer and promote health.” These women gathered to talk about their role in the EIF Revlon Run/Walk, which they have both supported and been supported by since the walk was started in 1994. EIF Revlon Run/Walk helps with increasing awareness, education, research and diagnostic treatment services by uniting women and men of all ages in the fight against women’s cancers. WOC’s president, June Smith, says they have fundraised for the run/walk every year. The support group’s fundraising has made them the biggest support group fundraiser for EIF Revlon Run/Walk. She says it’s all due to the strong cancer survivors/supporters who are diligently making people aware of cancer.
“All the ladies will get their forms and will solicit neighbors, family, friends and people they are associated with,” Smith said.
What began as women coming together for the annual EIF Revlon Run/Walk turned into a share session – with many women dealing with past struggles and also current ones. One woman described the pain of losing two daughters to cancer – one loss that was very recent.
“I just lost a daughter five months ago, so it’s hard for me to talk about it, but I became involved with Women of Color through my first daughter. She worked very hard with this organization. She loved it…then when I lost her, I had to get in line to help the other ladies,” Charlotte Mills said.
Many woman like Mills, have found the comfort of being a part of WOC to support each other through life-changing circumstances. They call Women of Color their support system.
“When you are diagnosed with cancer, you have a little bit of a fear, but if you have trust in God, you will overcome that…You need a good support team [like] Women of Color and even though you might not be a breast cancer survivor, you’re still talking to someone,” Jean Hartfield, a 13-year colon cancer survivor said.
As women shared their survival stories, the room was filled with smiles and clapping as women proudly shared their years of surviving cancer-free. Some of those women have survived breast cancer, which is the leading cause of death for Black women aged 45-64 years, according to WOC. City of Hope National Medical Center’s CCARE (Center of Community Alliance for Research and Education) also states that African American women “have a five year survival rate of 78 percent after diagnosis as compared to 90 percent for white women.” Most heard of Women of Color through church or their doctor, but there was also a 3-time breast cancer survivor, Jackie Furby, who read about Women of Color in an article published in the Sentinel.
“When I was recovering from that third surgery in 2001, I actually was reading an article in the Sentinel about Women of Color and it said something about ‘If you want to know more about this group, call this number.’ And I called the number,” Furby said.
These hats represent the amount of EIF Revlon Run/Walks Jackie Furby of WOC has participated in. (Photo By: Brian Carter)
Just like many of the women of WOC, she participated in the EIF Revlon Run/Walk for many years and says that it will be her 18th year participating. She proudly lays out her hats from each run/walk that she has collected over time. Now she, along with other members of WOC participate in “Each One Teach One” where they host breast health seminars and workshops, which provide breast cancer awareness, risk factors, breast self-examinations and also discovering the importance of touches while doing a breast self-exam. Some members also participate as “Peer Navigators” for City of Hope, where they work with people going through cancer treatment, by being a mentor. WOC women stress many major ideals to women about cancer and proper treatment.
“I’m a more recent survivor [of breast cancer] and I want to stress early detection and that was my case. I’m the third straight generation in my family to be diagnosed. However, we don’t carry the gene,” Mary Battle said.
Now that Battle has become involved with Women of Color she says that she tries to “give back.”
“I too, found a person to go to. That’s Jackie Furby, who’s a member of our church and there were several survivors there. She directed me to Women of Color and since, I have become their office manager and I try to give back just by being there in the office and supporting Women of Color,” Battle continued.
You will see Women of Color joining others at the annual EIF Revlon Run/Walk on May 10, 2014 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum wearing their pink WOC t-shirts and smiles of hope. They are there for conquering their battles, continuing the fight against cancer and making others aware.
If you would like to donate to Women of Color or to the EIF Revlon Run/Walk, you can send all donations to WOC’s address: 301 No. Prairie Avenue, Inglewood, CA, 90301. If you would like to get in contact with WOC you can call them at 310-330-5140 or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.