Breast cancer survivors share their stories

The Inaugural Breast Cancer Survivors Luncheon Thursday in the Lawson Center. Photo by Olivia Abney

Florida A&M University’s healthy campus initiative hosted the inaugural Breast Cancer Survivors Luncheon Thursday in the Lawson Center.

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this initiative in partnership with A Healthier America invited three speakers to share their breast cancer battle stories, methods for prevention, and normalize the harder conversations concerning health, especially in the black community.

The luncheon was attended by both survivors, women coping with breast cancer and a few men, who despite commo

This pamphlet shows a correct self-examination. Photo by Olivia Abney

n misconception, still have a 1 in 1,000 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer compared to women’s 1 in 8 chance.

First to speak was Zellee Barnes, breast cancer survivor and curriculum administrator for grades 6-12 at the FAMU Developmental Research School, who shared her journey that started almost five years ago.

“I’m still here and I’ll tell my story every chance I get. He’s [God] been good to me, I’m not going to say every day was a happy day for me, but I can say through it all God kept me,” she said.

Next to speak was Kelley Uanino, an occupational therapist and lymphedema specialist who, from a professional standpoint, educated attendees on everything that comes with a cancer diagnosis and everything that follows.

“I have never been diagnosed with cancer myself, so I learn from each and every person I get to serve about how it changes you, about how the minute you’re diagnosed it changes everything about the rest of your life,” she said. “You know you think you have time, and now maybe you don’t. It changes perspectives.”

FAMU School of Nursing alumna Dearline Thomas-Brown addressed survivors as the “wonder women of breast cancer.” She told them, “By sharing your testimony, you know that what you went through was not just for you.”

As a registered nurse and legal nurse coordinator she is more than qualified to have shared methods for prevention, self-detection, and imperative questions to ask any doctors for deeper understanding.

To simulate how an actual cancerous breast might feel, Thomas-Brown passed around a palm sized fake lumpy breast and demonstrated the proper way to do a breast exam. She also made the comparison to how similar a man’s prostate exam would be.

“Early detection leads to an early cure,” she said. The only way to notice any differences in your body is to do consistent self-examinations, she added.