Breast Cancer Mortality Rates in African American Women Double that of other Women; Prompts Increased Education and Outreach Efforts

(Phoenix, AZ) – Breast cancer mortality rates of African-American women diagnosed at stage III or IV are nearly twice that of Caucasian women, a dramatic reality underscoring the urgency and importance of the Coalition of Blacks Against Breast Cancer (CBBC) community outreach and education initiatives. The Coalition will report on its successes to date and announce its new outreach strategy during its 2nd anniversary celebration, Thursday, September 20, 2012, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the AE England Building in downtown Phoenix.

Six breast cancer survivors will share their inspirational stories including Mieko Vernon who at 34, years old was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. “By sharing my story and coming together with other survivors, I hope people will be encouraged and know there is a support system to help them get through it.”  Gina Bowser, a 14-year survivor, diagnosed with stage II breast cancer in August 1999, took the fight to breast cancer. She and husband successfully researched and found a treatment option that worked for her. Barbra Watson-Riley, a long-time breast cancer advocate was suddenly diagnosed last year with breast cancer herself. “It was one of the most shocking turns in my life but I am so thankful and encouraged by the support I have received from members of the coalition.” Read a synopsis of each survivors story in page following and hear their full story at the anniversary celebration.

“The Coalition of Blacks Against Breast Cancer continues its growth as a valuable resource for  survivors and their families,” said Michele Halyard, M.D, an oncologist at the Mayo Clinic and a co-founder of CBBC. “We will outline our new training and education efforts, update the community on the formation of the CBBC nonprofit, and share new inspirational stories of life after breast cancer.”  The Sept. 20th anniversary celebration, Better Together, will feature a fashion show and additions to the photographic gallery of survivors and their triumphant testimonies. Physicians, wellness experts, care givers, and other health care providers will assemble in the AE England building for demonstrations and discussions on breast health and cancer awareness.

Participants will also be encouraged to join the award-winning CBBC Komen Race for the Cure team which will defend its 2011 award during the upcoming race as the largest new community/nonprofit team. “The underlying goal in all of these efforts is that people of African descent will become more educated about breast cancer prevention, screening, and treatment,” says Halyard.

The Coalition of Blacks Against Breast Cancer,, is the only group Phoenix Metro area group that specifically focuses on men and women of Black and African descent diagnosed with breast cancer.  Founded in 2009, CBBC is an initiative of the Phoenix Chapter of the Links Inc., Sigma Pi Phi Gamma Mu Boule, and Mayo Clinic. The coalition was formed to increase education and awareness, to provide access to treatment options, and to highlight health care disparities facing African-American breast cancer patients. Collaborating agencies include Arizona Sate University, Greater Phoenix Black Chamber of Commerce, Center for African American Health, Susan G. Komen for the Cure Phoenix Affiliate, and many individuals and breast cancer survivors who share the CBBC goals. Membership is free and pen to corporations, non-profits, and individuals.

                                    These are our stories, shared to give hope and inspiration to others

 Mieko Vernon

In December of 2009, I was given the worst news of my life. This is my story.

As I held the phone I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “Unfortunately Ms. Vernon, your test results have come back and they are positive for a very aggressive form of Invasive Breast Cancer.” How can this be I asked myself, this has to be a mistake!  I don’t fit the profile I screamed in my head – I don’t smoke, I don’t drink and I live a very healthy lifestyle.  I am a Triathlete who works out at least five to six times a week, I am under the age of forty, and most importantly, I had no family history of Breast Cancer.  However, it was not a mistake, in fact, it was a reality. It was MY reality and I had to come to terms with it very quickly whether I wanted to or not.

Dr. Joel Martin

In March 2009, I received the diagnosis that I had breast cancer. This is my story.

The cancer was small yet aggressive, the cells widely distributed. I was shocked when I learned the difference between alkaloid foods and acidic, the way I’d eaten in the past, My doctor advised me to switch immediately and I did, although it took some getting used to – veggies and fruit, cut the red meat and fried foods – I “had’ to. It is ironic. I’m a transformational trainer, speaker and coach. Here is the comfort my friend Susan gave me: “Sometimes we become so focused on the outer work–what we feel we must do for others and to stay afloat–that we forget ourselves and are unfair to our body, until it calls a halt. And this is always a gift.”


Barbra Watson-Riley

In September 2011 I was diagnosed with aggressive Stage 2 triple negative breast cancer. This is my story.

I found my lump three months after a clear mammogram.  My treatment began with chemo in an effort to reduce the lump.  After four treatments, I switched to a 2nd group of chemo meds.  A week into that treatment I noticed that my lump felt funny, and mentioned it to my doctor.  It turns out the tumor, which had been cut in half from the original chemo, was now growing back and had regained its original size in 10 days.

Saundra Ealy

“I knew it was possible.” This is my story.

Having an aunt and two first cousins with breast cancer I knew the family history. But when the diagnosis came back as DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma in Situ) I still felt like I was punched.  I kept hearing that I was “lucky,” because they found the cancer early and it had not moved beyond the ductal walls.  But I learned that lucky is relative.  I believe in early detection and active participation in my own health care but the word cancer carries a heavy weight. I had to learn how to redefine privacy and become a focused member of my health team.  I needed to rely on others when I couldn’t do for myself and to be open to offers of help.

Sharon Blanton

Running my race against cancer was the longest race and most difficult I’ve ever encountered.  This is my story.

There were many roadblocks while seeking treatment, but I soon found that the race against cancer was definitely a relay race that everyone in my circle would share.  After finding a painful lump in my breast, I was referred for a mammogram.  The doctor called a few days before Thanksgiving to tell me to find a surgeon.  It was apparent that she was giving me the task of finding a surgeon on my own.  Therefore, I immediately interjected during our phone conversation, that I wanted referrals.  But no matter whom I called after Thanksgiving, I would have to wait until after Christmas to be seen.

Gina Bowser

In August 1999 I was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. I am a 13-year survivor and an advocate for breast cancer awareness.  This is my story.

One evening while getting ready for bed I felt a lump under my arm. I decided to see a physician to look at it before my husband I left for vacation.  The doctor said it was just a lymph node and did not seem too concerned; he sent me for a mammogram.  I knew I had cystic breast and did not give much thought to it except for the lump underneath my armpit.  That was different. During our vacation I begin having fearful thoughts about the lump and that the test results were not going to be in my favor.  I remember thinking “I am going to have a good time on this vacation because I don’t know what I will hear once I return home”. I guess that was when I began living as if I were dying.

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