ST. PETERSBURG –Black Nurses Rock and Allstate united to host the 2017 Breast Cancer Awareness, Prevention, Screening and Treatment luncheon held at the Empath Health and Suncoast Hospice facility last Saturday, Oct. 15.
Black Nurses Rock of St. Petersburg President Lottie Cuthbertson welcomed sponsors, health organizations, nurses and cancer survivors to the luncheon to commemorate the significance of breast cancer awareness.
“We’re here to celebrate those women affected by breast cancer in any way,” said Cuthbertson.
Statistics spell out the evasive threat of breast cancer occurrence among women, especially black women who are more likely to die from the disease, according to breastcancer.org. The National Breast Cancer Foundation website states that one in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with the disease every two minutes, and one woman will die every 13 minutes.
Racial disparity between breast cancer occurrence and death among white females and black females is well documented. The National Cancer Institute revealed that the reported cases of breast cancer among white women were 132,500 compared to 118,300 for African-American women between 2000-04. On the other hand, the number of deaths per 100,000 white females was 25 as compared 34 deaths per 100,000 black females.
Although the incidences of breast cancer among women may be declining, ethnic disparities are still evident in the death rate.
Nevertheless, the purpose of the luncheon was not about dwelling on the negative realities of breast cancer but to give women an opportunity to network with each other and community health organizations.
Although breast cancer is a traumatic experience, it has a way of bringing out the best in the sufferer as well as the sufferer’s support system. Guest speaker Juliette Warneke made that crystal clear as she addressed the crowd.
“Being a breast cancer survivor is an awesome testimony because we all know people who in their journey did not survive,” said Warneke.
Detecting warning signs of breast cancer is not routine as Warneke pointed out.
“Back in 2008, I had just taken a shower like anybody else would when I went to reach into my nightstand for my towel and lingerie and I felt a scratch on my arm. I just reached for a towel, so what could’ve scratched me.”
When Warneke went back into the bathroom to look, she noticed “a small mark about as large as a click on a pen.”
“And I looked at it and it had some oozing and drying around it. It didn’t hurt. I squeezed it. That didn’t hurt, and I started treating it myself. I didn’t think too much about it.”
Warneke said she remembers at some point she heard a voice say to her that “it wasn’t unto death and it wasn’t going to take your life!” She had no idea what the voice was talking about. She reacted like a nurse would to what appeared to be a non-threatening situation.
“You got a wound. It’s not hurting. It’s not itching. It’s not doing anything!”
During a routine visit to see the doctor, Warneke had the nurse look at the pimple-sized lump. Her doctor decided that she should have a biopsy just as a precaution, which took about six weeks to receive the results.
While waiting to get the results back from the test, Warneke’s ex-husband died which traumatized their daughter and sent her into early labor. Three weeks later the diagnosis came back positive.
“This isn’t a part of my history,” Warneke said. “You say high blood pressure, OK we got that.
Diabetes, OK we got that! Mental health, we’ve got some of those. Addiction, yeah, we’ve got some of that. But breast cancer! From the plantation till now I was the first one (in her family) with the diagnosis!”
Warneke said that after she was informed of her test results, the doctor and the nurse immediately exited the room and did not return. She eventually walked to the check-in window, trembling and shaking. One of the women in the front office gave her a hug and information on the “Sister2Sister” women’s support group in St. Pete.
A support group member advised her to get a second opinion. A doctor at Moffitt Cancer Center suggested a far less radical treatment. She took his advice and remained cancer free for two years. On the third year she learned it had returned.
The treatment resulted in radiation and chemotherapy that caused her skin to peel and led to neuropathy, the damaging or destruction of nerve tissue. The second round of treatment resulted in an infusion of multiple drugs that led to blood transfusions during every visit.
“I was so allergic to the medication that my feet swelled, they turned black, the toenails fell off,” said Warneke.
Over time her feet ruptured with blisters, the chemotherapy burned her hands and she lost all of her hair.
“God needed somebody to take through that process who would be a witness to his restoration powers and to his deliverance powers,” said Warneke.
Everyone in the room gave Warneke a standing ovation. Her testimonial has been captured in her book entitled “Catch on Fire.” She attributes the scars from her experience as a way to get her body ready for the transfer. She is a stormtrooper who has survived now for six years.
Black Nurses Rock is comprised of four administrative staff personnel: Lottie Cuthbertson-president; Kim L. Hickman, vice president; Bridgett Narvaez, secretary and Vonet L. Lassiter, treasurer. The organization has been in St. Pete for 20 months and has recruited 20 members so far.