Facing Breast Cancer with FEAR (Fierce Empowerment to Act not React)

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"No! I’m not going back to the doctor! I’m too scared! Every one of my relatives who got cancer–died! Cancer medicines didn’t help them so why should I think they’ll help me. I don’t want to leave my children! I don’t want to die!" Six months after her diagnosis, Asia* had done nothing about the lemon–sized lump in her breast. In her mind breast cancer was an automatic death sentence and fear had robbed her of any hope for life. I was asked to help convince her to get treatment. Because so many beautiful, vibrant Black women are dying senselessly of breast cancer, losing yet another young Black mother, sister, or friend because of fear was then and is now totally unacceptable. Breast cancer is treatable and the fear associated with it is fully conquerable! Ladies, we can fight it and win!

I’m a four year breast cancer survivor, mother, advocate, educator, and health and wellness speaker. I know all too well the suffocating fear associated with the mere thought of breast cancer. Like Asia, I lived it! I watched it grip my family as they struggled with the reality of my diagnosis. We all wondered if I would die. There were days when fear controlled my imagination and all I could see was my body lying in a casket and my girls growing up without me. I feared losing my breast to the point of almost declining the mastectomy. I feared the nearly four hours of surgery hoping I would function normally after it was over. Through it all I acknowledged my fears, but I never let them stop me! I coached myself to think and act in spite of my feelings. I pushed myself to read, ask questions, see my doctors, and make necessary decisions. Even now I’m a little nervous when getting my mammograms and seeing my oncology reports but I eagerly do both because I know EARLY DETECTION SAVES LIVES! I also know that we possess the power and authority over all fear and negativity. When we choose to transform our thoughts, change our perspectives, and alter our actions, fear loses control and power takes over. That’s how Asia was able to fight her fears and get help. She first decided that she mattered more than the cancer. She chose to focus on her desire to live and the needs of her children instead of on her fear of dying. She faced the facts of her diagnosis and used the knowledge to become empowered in the fight for her life! Cancer or not, you can do the same and fight for yours!

So here’s the deal my sisters – THE DEATHS STOP HERE!! As you engage in this year’s October–fest of Pink Teas, Sunday Brunches, and Walks for the Cause, take a moment and pause for the #1 cause–YOU! Before you start tying those pink ribbons and slipping on your pink fall fashions in support of finding a cure, think about the lives you hope to help save–including yours! Shift your focus to YOU!

First, ask yourself if you have issues of fear with breast cancer. Then ask how your participation in the 2007 festivities is going to reduce your fears and change your approach to better breast health. Ask whether your presence or personal contribution will increase your chances of survival should you be diagnosed. Think of your donations to research. Are you assured the research you support will benefit you and women who look like you? Find out how you may participate in the research yourself (www.sisterstudy.org).

Secondly remember this: Because breast cancer is the most common cancer among Black women and is the second leading cause of cancer deaths exceeded only by lung cancer, it’s time to go beyond the traditional norms of general awareness programs. If the agenda doesn’t address moving you from fear to power, it needs an upgrade. Because Black women are more often diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age (under age 40), experience more aggressive tumors, and are more likely to die of breast cancer than white women even though more white women get the disease, it’s time to make a lifelong commitment and become an advocate for your own body. Breast cancer does not discriminate and it strikes every single day, therefore it’s time to be aware of its impact throughout the year!

Lastly, be informed and be your own judge! Don’t let other people scare you from getting screened or seeing a doctor. The sister who religiously complains that her mammogram hurts might be a wimp but she sure is smart! Do as she does, not as she whines (smile). The following USA Today link features a very insightful article that I hope you will read and share with others. After all knowledge is power and power produces survivors! YOU ARE A SURVIVOR!

*This person’s name was changed to protect her privacy.

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