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Take advantage of breast cancer awareness month –– it could save your life

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. In 2003, black women in Chicago were 68 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women. Advocacy by groups such as the Metropolitan Chicago Breast cancer Task Force has narrowed the gap from 68 percent to 39 percent. | Stock.Adobe.com

It’s that time of year again.

If you haven’t already had your annual mammogram, it’s time to get moving, and to remind the women in your life to do the same.

As most readers of this column know, I am a breast cancer survivor.

It’s been nine years and eight months since my doctor discovered the lump.

I’ve been cancer-free since then, but I’ve lost some awesomely brave sister-survivors.

They were fierce women, like Cynthia K. Duncan who wouldn’t let me become what she called a “crying jack” or sink into self-pity.

Long before I was diagnosed, Duncan reached out, encouraging me to use my platform to educate black women about the alarming racial disparity in breast cancer deaths.

In 2003, black women in Chicago were 68 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women.

Advocacy by groups such as the Metropolitan Chicago Breast cancer Task Force have narrowed the gap from 68 percent to 39 percent.

Survivors give back in many ways.

Fashion designer Barbara Bates, also a nine-year survivor, used her incredible talent to raise $650,000 in four years to support the “Helping Her Live” project at Mt. Sinai Hospital.

Barbara Bates in 2015 | Sun-Times File Photo

She went to work immediately, creating an annual fashion show featuring breast cancer survivors.

In 2013, she organized the “Walk Where You Live for Breast Cancer Awareness 5K Run/Walk,” an annual event at Douglas Park.

Funds from both projects will also go toward opening a breast-imaging center to be named in Bates’ honor.

Her advocacy has targeted women with limited resources.

“I was blessed to live, to have resources, friends and a voice so that I could translate fashion into something more functional for my community,” Bates told me. “Because I was blessed, I have to be a blessing for somebody else.”

Most people might remember Cheryle Jackson as the stunningly sharp woman who ran for former President Barack Obama’s Senate seat in 2010.

What most people might not know, however, is Jackson is a five-year breast cancer survivor.

Cheryle Jackson | Provided photo

A top executive at the global aviation aftermarket company at the time, Jackson was not only thrown into a fight for her life, but her marriage imploded in the midst of the battle.

“Women are literally and figuratively in the fight of our lives, and we’ve been fighting for a long time and that fight keeps getting tougher,” Jackson said in a written statement.

“Whether it’s illness, sexism or discriminatory practices by men at the highest levels of government and business, who just don’t get it, we must fight. But we often don’t know how to take care of ourselves and to make ourselves a priority. I’m on a mission to help women practice grace and pour some of that energy back into themselves.”

On Thursday, Oct. 18, Jackson is launching the #gracemoment that will bring together about 200 women from the Chicago-land corporate community and from nonprofits serving women and cancer survivors to enjoy free mani-pedis, food, wine and girl time.

Women wishing to attend should go to https://www.cherylejackson.com/application to register.

On Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., I will be the emcee at the annual “Hattie McDaniel Bras and Bagels” breast cancer awareness event hosted by the Eta Xi Sigma Alumnae Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho sorority.

The event is free and is being held at Macy’s River Oaks Center in Calumet City.

Attendees will gain valuable information about breast cancer from health care professionals, survivors, advocates and caregivers.

This event also includes a fashion show, make-up demonstration, and a raffle.

Hattie McDaniel was the first African-American entertainer to win an Oscar, and was a member of Sigma Gamma Rho. She died of breast cancer in 1952.

“That is why we named this initiative in her honor. Breast cancer is one of the leading health issues in the African-American community. As a sorority, it is important to educate women and men about the risks and the importance of early detection,” said Bertina Booker, the National Program and Initiatives co-chair.

Today, I took the steps to get my annual mammogram.

After nearly 10 years of going through the routine, the scheduler still asks for the last four numbers of my Social Security, my medical insurance information, and a doctor’s referral.

I want to scream: “I’m a breast cancer survivor. Isn’t that referral enough?!”

But I don’t.

For more information on Saturday’s event contact Bertina Booker at exsnpcs@gmail.com