Members of St. Matthew Team Healing Hands Ministry of St. Matthew A.M.E. Church, 215 N 57th St. in West Philadelphia joined with Susan G. Komen Foundation and others fighting against cancer during their Breast Cancer Awareness Health Fair, Saturday.
While the c-word strikes terror in the hearts of many, this event fought back by raising awareness and celebrating with those who have survived the disease.
“St. Matthew has made a commitment to the community here to be a resource for folks looking for spiritual guidance and also folks looking for information about breast cancer awareness,” said Lynne Dudley, captain of St. Matthew Team Healing Hands, the official Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure team.
For 11 years, Team Healing Hands have partnered with Susan G. Komen to raise awareness about breast cancer.
“It has been a wonderful partnership for us, and they have provided us with so many resources that we being a faith-based organization can pass onto our community,” said Dudley.
Dudley said St. Matthew is very committed to Susan G. Komen and the community of Philadelphia and surrounding area.
The day’s event began with a continental breakfast sponsored by the 57th Street McDonald’s. Afterwards there was a panel discussion in which panelists discussed triple-negative breast cancer and cancer disparities in the African-American community.
The panel was moderated by the Rev. Lorina Marshall-Blake, of Vine Memorial Baptist and the Independence Blue Cross Foundation, is herself a 12-year breast cancer survivor.
“How can I not be here?,” said an enthusiastic Marshall-Blake “It’s all about empowerment, it’s all about making sure that women have the information that they need to lead healthy and wealthy lives. If you have your health, you have everything.”
Breast cancer is the No. 2 killer of women in the United States.
“We need to make sure that people get the right information and that they are empowered to take charge of their health, and that’s what’s happening here at St. Matthew today,” she said.
Marshall-Blake said faith is a very important part of the healing process when one is diagnosed with breast cancer but that faith should produce corresponding actions.
This means adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle, getting regular exercise and acquiring a personal support system.
“It really is about love and loving your way through this,” she said.
Dr. Edith Mitchell is a medical oncologist and professor at Thomas Jefferson University and says she has worked in the area of cancer for several decades.
“African-Americans tend to have a higher rate development of some of the most aggressive breast cancers, many of which we don’t have adequate drugs to treat the patient with and consequently they die earlier,” she said.
The disparity is so great that African Americans die at a 15 percent higher rate than whites who are diagnosed with the same types of cancers.
“We are working to try to find answers as to why African Americans tend to develop these very aggressive tumors,” she said.
“They tend to spread to other parts of the body, the brain, the liver, the lungs, much faster than in other ethnic and racial groups, and they also tend to not respond to the usual medications.”
As head of the Center to Eliminate Cancer Disparity at the Sidney Kimmel at Jefferson, this is an issue Mitchell knows all too well.
Rev. Roland C. McCall, pastor of St. Matthew said he has a vested interest in the battle against breast cancer since both his mother and sister died of the disease.
“During that time, this ministry, this Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure was not around, and there was no seminars available here to bring awareness about this disease,” he said.
Each year, the Team Healing Hands Ministry, walks in the annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and will do so this Saturday.
“They have always been involved in that, and the ministry here is very serious and zealous in doing what needs to be done so that breast cancer awareness might be known throughout our neighborhood,” said McCall.