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“Whatever it is you may be going through

I know he’s not gonna let it get the best of you

Stay in the fight ‘til the final round 

You’re an overcome

You’re not going under

‘Cause God is holding you right now

You might be down for a moment

Feeling like it’s hopeless

That’s when he reminds you

That you’re an overcomer

You’re an overcomer”

– Mandisa, Christian Contemporary Singer/Performer

HOUSTON – It takes leadership, a visionary spirit and most importantly a desire to survive breast cancer.

When it comes to dealing with it, none fits those descriptions of courage and bravery like survivors, Karen E. Jackson and Constance Charles.

Both Black women have inspiring stories, are true trailblazers and are brave in the fight to make a difference everyday in finding a cure and ending this panacea in the Black community.

Constance Charles

Photo Credit: Tariyah R. Lewis

More than 12 years ago, after a self-examination Constance Charles found a cluster of lumps around her right breast.

After going to the doctor, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“My initial reaction when I found out I had cancer was total surprise. I didn’t have any history of breast cancer in my family,” she recalls. “…Facing cancer is challenging enough, but I was about to face the journey as a single mom. We didn’t even have another family member in Texas.”

For her, it was not the end, it was actually a new beginning.

This was a blessing in disguise because she and her 15-year-old daughter read stories about survivors, which gave them hope and reassured her daughter that she would be okay.

After telling her daughter and going through the changes and hurdles is only part of her great story, but it has become one of the things in life that has built her faith, hardened her will and made her stronger against an enemy that shows no favorites and takes no prisoners.

Constance always tells single parents, or anyone facing cancer, that the three things that helped her through were faith, family and friends.

“My advice to a single parent going through cancer is to know that this is something that you can beat,” she said. “Do not isolate yourself, and do not turn down help. Your family and friends want to help. When someone has cancer, it’s not a death sentence. It’s actually a new beginning. It’s not time to give up, it’s time to fight.”

She currently participates in a group called Sharon’s Angels and walk yearly in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure honoring a friend who is no longer with us.

She even recently took on the cancer fight in a new way. Charles is the latest cancer survivor featured in Jason’s Deli’s Strike Through Cancer campaign, which raises money to support cancer research at MD Anderson.

For every water bottle purchased, Jason’s Deli is giving $0.10 back to MD Anderson. This may not seem like a lot to some people, but that $0.10 multiplied

many times over across nearly 200 Jason’s Deli locations all over the country is money that can make a real difference for cancer research, especially in the hands of MD Anderson physicians and scientists.

Charles also participates and supports the vital Sisters Network Stop the Silence Walk and currently enjoys supporting other MD Anderson employees and members of my church dealing with a cancer diagnoses.

Photo Credit: Brady Carter Photography

The Sisters Network® Inc. (SNI) is committed to increasing local and national attention to the devastating impact that breast cancer has in the African-American community. In April 2010, Sisters Network Inc. made history by hosting the 1st National African Breast Cancer 5K Walk/ Run in Houston. A portion of the funds raised from this event will benefit  Sisters Network Inc. Breast Cancer Assistance Program (BCAP).

Karen Eubanks Jackson

Founder/CEO, Karen Eubanks Jackson,  is recognized nationally as a true visionary, leader in the African American breast cancer movement and a 23-year breast cancer survivor.

Understanding the historical difficulty in the African American community to discuss cancer and other health concerns, Jackson created a national slogan and branding campaign: STOP THE SILENCE ® to encourage African Americans to discuss their family health and history.

Sisters Network is the nation’s only African American breast cancer survivorship organization.

Jackson continues to lead Sisters Network’s nationwide effort to focus the spotlight on increasing breast cancer awareness in the African American community.

“The knowledge and information we share with survivors and families of African-American women is information needed to better provide proper assistance to them,” she said. “It is important to be aware so that we can do better in surviving the breast cancer illness.”

History

In 1994, Jackson founded Sisters Network Inc., during her personal fight to survive breast cancer Jackson recognized a lack of “sisterhood” in traditional organizations, a staggering breast cancer mortality rate for African American women and limited culturally sensitive material. Often referred to as a breast cancer champion, Jackson’s primary motivation was to break through the silence and shame of breast cancer that immobilizes African American women, restricts their ability to receive support services, interferes with early detection, and ultimately affects their survival rates.

Under her leadership and vision, the organization has developed numerous national breast health outreach initiatives including, but not limited to hosting the only National African American Breast Cancer Conference, Stop the Silence National African American Breast Cancer 5k Walk/Run, Teens4Pink, and the Gift for Life Block Walk®, Pink Ribbon Awareness and the First Ladies Brunch. Since the organizations’ inception 22 years ago, Sisters Network has provided over $1million in conference scholarships to help train African American breast cancer survivors to be advocate leaders in their communities though it’s national African American Breast Cancer conference.

The organization provides standardized national educational outreach programs; survivor & family support; empowerment; hope and financial assistance to thousands of women annually through its national network of survivor-run affiliate chapters located in 22 states. She has also been a recognized and highly sought after speaker around the country on the subject of breast cancer.

Jackson has dedicated her life to the cause and is frequently invited to speak on the international and national stage on the subject and share her perspective on the state of breast cancer in the African American community.

Both Jackson and Charles agree and support the premise of early detection and examinations being the key when in comes to preventing the disease.

“It is very important that (in fundraising) the dollars go to the women needing our assistance,” Jackson said.

She said her work will continue to be dedicated to providing the much needed information, financial assistance for women tackling the illness and also help provide more opportunities for women to get needed mammograms and ultrasounds in the community.

For Charles, the message remains simple: She wants everyone facing cancer to know this journey is actually a new beginning. “It’s not time to give up,” she said. “It’s time to fight.”

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