Sisters Surviving, a wellness conference for African-American breast cancer survivors, brought together 75 women whose lives have been touched by cancer.
The one big question on every woman’s mind: What can I do to keep myself healthy?
The day-long event at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center at Christiana Care provided great information on healthy eating, fitness, genetics, spirituality and other topics.
“Nutrition is the number-one topic that brought me out,” said Sheila Walton-Moore, an eight-year survivor from Newark who has lost 40 pounds in the past year by sticking to a sensible, low-fat, high-fiber diet and taking daily walks with her husband.
Zohra Ali-Khan Catts, MS, LCGC, a genetic counselor at Christiana Care, spoke about the family risk factors associated with 5–10 percent of breast cancers. Kenneth L. van Golen, Ph.D., an associate professor of biology at the University of Delaware, discussed the link between obesity and breast cancer.
“There are so many facets to breast cancer,” said Nora Katurakes, manager, Community Health Outreach and Education at Christiana Care. “We are educating women that there is more than one kind.”
Overall, black women are more likely to die from breast cancer than women of other ethnicities, according to the American Cancer Society. Eliminating disparities in order to provide expert care for everyone is an important part of The Christiana Care Way.
To determine the topics for the event, survivors shared their insights at three focus groups in September designed to identify their ongoing needs after treatment, said Renitia Pulliam, breast screening and survivorship coordinator at the Graham Center.
“We learned what is on women’s minds and also that women are devoted to helping one another,” Pulliam said. “After one of the focus groups, women exchanged telephone numbers so they can continue to support each other.”
The Rev. Patricia Malcolm, a chaplain at Christiana Care’s Pain and Palliative Care Service, titled her presentation “Live, Love, Laugh: A Reflection of the Importance of Maintaining a Positive Outlook When Facing Serious Illness.” The topic resonated with Walton-Moore, who said surviving cancer forever changed her view of the world. She is working with her pastor to found a resource group for people dealing with cancer at Canaan Baptist Church in New Castle.
“I have always been a religious person, and going through this process has made me appreciate life more,” Walton-Moore said. “I look at the sky and watch the birds. I listen to the birds sing.”
Scott D. Siegel, Ph.D., health psychologist at the Graham Center, addressed the lingering emotional concerns survivors face even after they complete treatment. Other topics at the event included sexuality after cancer and dealing with cancer-related fatigue.
Christiana Care partnered with the American Cancer Society, Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition and Sisters on a Mission to organize the event.
“The purpose is for us to work together so we can provide information in a way that is not fragmented by bringing resources together for survivors who will use the information now and share it later with friends and family,” Katurakes said. “It’s good for our patients and good for our community.”