A small audience of students gathered to hear Felicia Redus and Brad Murdock of the Avon Foundation speak at the Breast Cancer Tea, an awareness-promoting event that was the result of a collaboration between the Black Student Union and the Delta Sigma Theta sorority’s Tau Tau chapter.
Amid rustling tea dresses and the soft clinking of silver spoons and china came hard facts and stories of strength. Every three minutes, a woman in America is diagnosed with breast cancer. Every 13 minutes, a woman in America dies from breast cancer.
And while October is officially Breast Cancer Month, said Redus, “Every day, every second, every week, every month is Breast Cancer Month. [Cancer] doesn’t take a vacation. It doesn’t celebrate holidays. It doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, black or white. It doesn’t care if it’s snowing or it’s raining. You can get it.”
Even without a family history of cancer, it is still possible for anyone to be diagnosed with breast cancer. Because of this, Redus’ main advice to her audience was to become educated about the risks of breast cancer, to do regular breast examinations and once they hit 40 to get regular mammograms done. Other factors in avoiding cancer include following a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
Redus and Murdock also discussed how to aid the crusade against breast cancer. One avenue is to participate in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk, which will be at Speedway Meadow in Golden Gate Park on Saturday, Oct. 18.
Walking is not the only way to help out, however. Redus named several other opportunities, such as volunteering with community organizations, donating money, working with Project Open Hand, a San Francisco program which provides meals to critically ill homebound patients, and simply talking to a family member, friend, neighbor, or coworker who has cancer. What matters, she said, is that people get involved.
“You have to say ‘I can. I can do this. I can make a difference if I believe in this,'” Redus said. In her own case, a large part of her incentive came from personal experience with a friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I walked with her in my heart, and other women like her in my heart.”
Courtney Ball, junior and president of the Black Student Union, was also influenced by the devastating disease’s presence in her family. “I lost my mom to breast cancer in 2006,” she said. “My mom was only 44 and I miss her immensely. I would like to help women and their families from the plague that is breast cancer.”
A few others from the audience shared their own personal stories of survival and loss.
“I wish more people would have come up to give their testimonies,” said junior Christyl Wilson, vice president of Delta Sigma Theta and one of the organizers of the tea. Overall, though, she said, “I think it went really well as far as giving people the opportunity to learn about how breast cancer affects people, and more importantly to learn how to get involved, how they can take care of themselves and help others with cancer.”
Ball agreed. “I think [the event] improved greatly from last year; it was more concise, and it was a time for people to enjoy themselves and get dressed up, but also to learn about breast cancer, something that’s relevant.”
The event was especially relevant for the African-American students who attended. According to MSNBC.com, young black women are particularly susceptible to an aggressive and lethal form of breast cancer.
“Breast cancer kills a lot women of color because of an array of reasons,” Ball said. “If we take the time, raise awareness and promote action around the cause, we could save more lives.”
She also hopes that the audience has learned that they need to start early in living a cancer-preventative lifestyle, and that anyone can make a difference. “You don’t have to be a doctor to help people,” she said.
The event seems to have achieved these objectives with the students who attended.
“The event really moved me, even though I don’t know anyone who has breast cancer,” said freshman Olivia Waldon. “It inspired me to participate in the walk.”
Like Waldon, freshman Morgan Harper found the event informative and inspiring. “I really want to get more involved with the cause,” she said. Also, “It showed me how easy it is to get breast cancer and how to try to prevent it. I’m in ROTC and the workouts are good because they keep the risks of other cancer down, but eating healthy is a big part of it too, and I’m going to work harder at doing that.”
While the tea was a success, Ball said she hopes to improve on it in the future by joining forces with other culturally-focused organizations and health groups on campus, such as the African and Latino Americans Empowered Pre-Health Alliance.
In the nearer future, Delta Sigma Theta has other plans: tomorrow they are hosting an AIDS awareness dinner, where Emmy-award-winning activist and AIDS victim Rae Lewis-Thornton will be speaking. The event is free and will be taking place at 6:00 p.m. in McLaren.
As for the BSU, their fundraiser Gospel Extravaganza is coming up on Oct. 19 at 6:00 p.m.; this event will feature choirs from around the Bay Area and a message from a reverend.