“No one ever expects to get the news that they have breast cancer,” says Debra Stansberry. In 2008, Debra noticed an irregularity during a breast self-exam, which led to a mammogram. She was in her mid-thirties and was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. Women typically start receiving mammograms at age 40, when they’re at higher risk for the disease.
Debra underwent a lumpectomy and rounds of chemotherapy, which successfully eradicated the tumor. Throughout her treatment, she only missed one day of work—the day of her surgery. “I didn’t want people to feel like I was sick. I was not willing to let cancer break any of my plans,” she says.
Debra’s experience with breast cancer led her to become the spokeswoman of Sister Pact, an organization that helps connect women of all backgrounds and financial ability with resources to support breast health. “We’re mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, we’re the boss at work. We wear so many hats and it’s so important for us to take care of ourselves.” Sister Pact was founded by the Memphis Breast Cancer Consortium, which aims to lower the mortality rate of black women in Memphis by raising awareness of breast health issues and connecting them with more resources.
Veronyca Washington, the project director of the Memphis Breast Cancer Consortium says, “While high quality screening programs can identify breast cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages, most of that equipment is located in the more affluent areas, and the obstacles women face when trying to receive a mammogram include transportation, child care, and lack of finances or insurance. This positive correlation with the breast cancer mortality rate is just what inspired Sister Pact, a valuable resource for women in Memphis to learn more about breast health, where to get a mammogram, low-cost and no cost options, financial assistance, and local support groups.”
“We’re mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, we’re the boss at work. We wear so many hats and it’s so important for us to take care of ourselves.”
Veronyca continues, “Because of the success and how well received the Sister Pact campaign has been in the Memphis market, Genentech plans to expand to other cities plagued with breast cancer mortality disparities like Memphis. I want Memphis to be known as the city that turned things around.”
Debra says, “I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to be vocal for Sister Pact. We must stress accountability for ourselves and remind our friends and family to get mammograms. I was 35 when they found the stage one cancer. Had I waited to get a mammogram until after 40, I wouldn’t have had a chance and I would have left my two kids without a mother. Most people don’t think about the importance of a mammogram or think that because cancer doesn’t run in their family that one isn’t necessary. Check with your doctor and see if it’s the right time for you. Keep it on your radar, and let’s hold each other accountable.”
Learn more about breast health at http://www.sisterpact.com.
By Robin Beaudoin. Photo by Tindall Farmer.