BY DEBORAH THOMAS, Survivor Sisters Network Orlando Chapter, Inc., GUEST WRITER TO THE TIMES
Thirty years ago, Karen E. Jackson found herself in the middle of discrepancy and disparity of African American medical breast cancer treatment. She was faced with inconsistency, the lack of support, and education about the disease and realized that she was called to form what we now know as Sisters Network® Inc. She is a four-time survivor of breast cancer and has the tenacity and wherewithal to make sure that we as African Americans don’t go through what she has been through. Sisters Network® Inc. is committed to increasing local and national attention to the devastating impact that breast cancer has on the African American community. Sisters Network® Inc. addresses the breast health needs of African American women, through its affiliate chapters, and partnerships with existing service providers. The chapters are organized by breast cancer survivors and caregivers who are committed to establishing much needed community breast health services. Sisters Network® Inc. has over twenty chapters in the United States. We have three chapters in the state of Florida, Jacksonville, Tampa, and Orlando. Her impact on this community is beyond comprehensive words. Because of her obedience and tenacity, I can say that is why I belong. After joining, I began doing my research and found out that persistent disparities in breast cancer between African Americans and White Americans have been documented over many decades. More than ever, we need to continue the fight as a community to expose, educate, and make a concerted effort for change.
According to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, in the United States, breast cancer continues to be the most common cancer after non-melanoma skin cancer, and it is the second leading cause of cancer death. In 2023, the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that more than 300,590 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 55,720 new cases of ductal carcinoma in situ/stage 0 breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the United States. While there has been an overall 43 percent decline in breast cancer deaths over the last three decades—thanks to gains in awareness, earlier diagnoses, and more effective treatments—there is a persistent mortality gap between African American women and White women.
Because of Karen Jackson’s leadership, Sherlean Lee took the baton and chartered Sisters Network Orlando Chapter Inc. in 2005. Since its inception, Sisters Network of Orlando has taken the oath and responsibility to bring breast cancer awareness to the African American community in Central Florida. We have been advocating intensely to bring awareness to this devastating disease through various events throughout the year. Sisters Network, Inc.’s mission is to fight breast cancer through education and by advocating annual mammograms and monthly self-breast examinations (SBE). The Orlando Chapter is committed to fulfilling that mission. We diligently distribute breast health pamphlets, share our stories, and encourage and empower women in Orlando and surrounding areas to take control of their health. Our outreach efforts to promote early detection of breast cancer compel us to seek women in hair salons, churches, health fairs, sororities, schools, and civic groups. We work closely with our medical and community partners. We invite survivors and non-survivors to join our chapter to be a part of our campaign to Stop the Silence ® in the Central Florida community and help save lives from breast cancer and all cancers. On October 21, 2023, we will be hosting our annual Stop the Silence ® 5K walk/run from 9:00am-1:00pm at Barnett Park, Orlando, FL. We will have free food, vendors, a health fair, and free t-shirts while supplies last. Registration is full, however, there is a waitlist. Registrants will sign in at 8:30am and the walk is scheduled to begin at 9:00am. For more information email: email@example.com.
NATIONAL CREED – “In Unity there is Strength, In Strength there is Power, In Power there is Change.” – Karen E. Jackson, 1995