Celebrating 10 Years of existence is a big milestone for our organization – The African Women’s Cancer Awareness Association. From a humble beginning in 2004 to a 2012 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leaders Award recipient, among all the other numerous awards we have received over the years, is quite a fete. We did not get there on our own. And so, as we celebrate the Past, Present and Future, we first must thank and give credit to all those who have walked this path with us.
Our thanks goes to our dedicated staff, volunteers, members, both past and present, our Board of Directors, both past and present, our Advisory Board, all the health care providers who have opened their facilities and provided services most times at no cost to these immigrant women, over 100 medical personnel’s who went on medical missions to sub-saharan countries to serve the underserved and under privileged people, to our funders, corporate sponsors and numerous individuals, without whose donations we could not survive. THANK YOU!!
As I sit and look back over the years, one aspect of breast cancer that has bothered me the most is: Young Women under 40 years of age who are diagnosed with Breast Cancer. For this group of women, Breast Cancer diagnosis is different. A young woman with breast cancer must deal with a myriad of issues from disbelief to fear, dating, body image, sexuality issues, fertility, pregnancy, breast feeding, child care issues, problems with peer support, feelings of isolation and in most cases, confronting mortality so early in life!!
I remember two cases of such young women that have remained with me years after meeting them. The first case is that of a 32 year old lady – Ms. B, who was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was five months pregnant. She had the baby but never was able to breast feed her little angel. She battled the breast cancer with chemo and radiation and more chemo and finally succumbed to the deadly disease when her daughter was only 13 months old. She was denied the joys of motherhood by this deadly disease – breast cancer, so also has her daughter been denied ever knowing what her mother looks like.
The story of Miss Debbie O. is again, the story of many more young girls today who are faced with very hard and tough decisions when diagnosed with breast cancer so early in their life. At 27 years old, Debbie was diagnosed with Stage 2B breast cancer. She states that under twelve months after diagnosis, the cancer had gone to stage 4 and has affected both breasts. Battling this for three years and eventually ended up having a double mastectomy at age 29 years old. Through it all, she remained positive and prayerful. Debbie just reported getting the results of her fourth Pet Scan (March 11, 2014) report that clears her of the cancer! What a trooper, what a story.
Debbie insists, she will not let cancer define her. She and other young girls are joining the war to fight for their future. Kudos to Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who introduced and fought for the passing of the EARLY Act, that promotes breast cancer research for young women. Mention must also be made of Maimah Karmo, the founder and President of Tigerlily Foundation and all other organizations who champion the war on Breast Cancer for young women under 40 years old.
In our tenth year of existence, AWCAA having reached over 25,000 people in outreach campaigns both nationally and internationally, 11 medical missions abroad, 30 breast cancer related surgeries abroad, two mammogram machines, tons of medications and medical equipment donated to African countries, AWCAA is proud to announce that in partnership with some of the academia in the area – Georgetown University Research center, Howard University Cancer Center and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we are moving more into research.
To mark AWCAA’s ten years of service to the community, we have four major events planned:
• Annual Ladies First Breakfast, Saturday, June 28, 2014 to be held at the Double Tree hotel rd 3 on Colesville Road, Silver Spring, Maryland.
• 10th Wheaton, Maryland.
• Educational Conference, Saturday, October 17, 2014 at the Howard University Towers Auditorium, Howard University Hospital, Washington, DC.
• 10th Washington, DC. Join us for any and all of these events, to celebrate with us as we move forward with the global fight against cancer with one mission, one voice.
Our goal is to empower Africans with cancer to be their own best advocate. The impact of our work will ripple amongst our communities as we create larger footsteps in the fight against cancer especially the underserved, uninsured and under privileged in the African community.
Together we will win and someday, there will be a cure for breast cancer.
Ify Anne Nwabukwu – Executive Director AWCAA