LACEY - Breast cancer survivors shared their faith and spread the word about the importance of screening Sunday during the first "Worship in Pink" celebration at New Life Baptist Church on Pacific Avenue.
The celebration at New Life was made possible by a grant from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, as part of a campaign to increase breast cancer awareness among black women, said Velma Ragsdale, a New Life Baptist Church member and Komen grant manager for the CHOICE Regional Health Network.
New Life Baptist Church is the first church in Washington to kick off the campaign. New Life Bishop Anthony Over said he hopes the Worship in Pink campaign raises awareness of the need for breast cancer screening not only among his congregation, but in the entire community.
The need to educate black women about breast cancer screening is evident – they have the highest breast cancer mortality rate in America, Ragsdale said. The main reason, she said, is a lack of screening.
It is vital for all women older than 40 to have annual mammograms to detect breast cancer, she said.
New Life Minister Angela Brown, 43, admitted Sunday that in recent years she has avoided having a mammogram, mainly out of fear, because breast cancer runs in her family. But now that she’s been part of the Worship in Pink campaign, she said she’s made a commitment to have a mammogram done by the end of the year.
Guest speaker Beverly Gunkel, a seven-year breast cancer survivor who lost her mother to the disease in 1998, said early detection was vital to her. She spoke of a feeling of utter disbelief when she was diagnosed, and of the help her faith gave her as she began treatment.
“Needless to say, when I had the diagnosis of breast cancer, I was scared,” she said.
Gunkel said radiation treatments have eliminated all traces of the disease. She now takes part in walkathons for the Komen foundation.
“I am blessed that the next chapter has started – living,” she said.
Her husband, Washington State Patrol Lt. Blaine Gunkel, told the men to offer love and support for any special woman in their life, be it a wife, girlfriend, mother or grandmother, who is affected by breast cancer.
Congregation member Cheryl Penn, a member of the Women of Praise church singing group, talked about being an 18-year breast cancer survivor. “It’s not always a death sentence,” she said. “I knew that God was with me from the very beginning.”
Congregation members wore pink in solidarity against breast cancer, and a table in the church foyer was spread out with educational materials. One pamphlet gave information about an event from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. “Every Woman Counts” will be held at South Sound Radiology and will give information about how the uninsured can qualify for a free or reduced-price mammogram.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5465 firstname.lastname@example.org