When SAY Detroit’s monthly Wellness Wednesdays program launched in June 2021, its goal was to ensure that low-income women and mothers in the cities of Detroit and Highland Park had a safe, supportive space to gather, talk and listen.
On Wednesday, October 19th at the Ernest T. Ford Center, it also included sharing stories of pain and promise, along with victories and celebrations, as the group gathered to discuss the importance of breast health during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Fact: African American women face both disproportionate exposure to breast carcinogens, and the highest risk of serious health impacts from the disease.
Fact: A U.S. women’s lifetime risk of the disease is 1 in 8, with African American women having a 31% breast cancer mortality rate — the highest of any U.S. racial or ethnic group.
When Wellness Wednesdays facilitator Alexis Harvey, the SAY Detroit Family Health Clinic’s Community Health Worker and community outreach coordinator, asked breast cancer survivor Sonya Elkins to be a guest speaker and share her story, Elkins was understandably reluctant at first.
“It was only the second time I was speaking publicly about it,’’ Elkins said.
Elkins can still vividly recall the time when, at age 37, she was encouraged by a pharmacist at a CVS to get a mammogram because something didn’t feel right; others had told her to wait until she turned 40. Now 46, she has been cancer-free for nine years.
“It makes me feel good to share my story now,’’ she said. “The more I share, it hits as a reality for me, even though it still seems unreal, if that makes sense, because it was like I was the actress in that story.’’
Today, Elkins urges women to know your risk, get screened and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Wellness Wednesdays participant Kathy Joyner, whose sister and daughter died of the disease, said: “Today was impactful for me. Seeing that we’re sticking together, standing up for ourselves and being assertive and compassionate, we’re a sisterhood, that’s what we are.’’
SAY Detroit’s next Wellness Wednesday’s session is Nov. 16 at the Ford Rec Center in Highland Park. The topic is how to create and maintain a happier and healthier way to eat and live. Registration is limited and is first come, first served. Call 313-524-2277 to reserve your spot.