Go backStop The Silence: The Promise of Sisters Network
by Crystal Brown-Tatum
The moment Karen Jackson heard the words, “You have cancer,” she knew her life was forever changed. Diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer in 1993 and told she had five years to live, Jackson made the decision that she was going to survive the diagnosis and make a huge difference in the lives of other women who would face a breast cancer diagnosis. Her experiences and observations while undergoing treatment paved the way for Jackson to embark on a personal journey to ensure that no African-American women would have to suffer in silence, endure treatment alone or even die from breast cancer because they simply lacked breast health awareness information or access to resources.
Jackson’s focused mission to increase breast health awareness in her community resulted in her founding Sisters Network Inc. (SNI), the leading voice and only national African-American Breast Cancer survivorship organization in the United States. The organization began with very little funding but plenty of grassroots advocacy as Karen and a small group of dedicated volunteers worked tirelessly spreading the breast health messages throughout Houston.
A new home, where the heart is
Sixteen years later, Sisters Network Inc. is now headquartered in a beautiful and newly acquired two-story house affectionately called “Sister House” in Houston, Texas. Sister House doubles as a patient library and a comfortable retreat for those seeking support services during treatment. The organization has 43 affiliate chapters located in 22 States and is governed by an elected Board of Directors and assisted by an appointed medical advisory committee. Various SNI chapters across the U.S. conduct community health fairs, mammography screening programs, and faith-based awareness programs.
SNI is committed to increasing local and national attention to the devastating impact that breast cancer has in the African-American community. SNI members counsel newly diagnosed women and empower them with all the treatment options that are available. In addition to emotional support, the organization is committed to community outreach, education and encouraging more African-American to participate in clinical trials and research.
SNI’s national branding campaign “Stop the Silence” addresses the African American community’s long standing history of not discussing cancer and other potentially life-threatening health concerns. Dedicated community volunteers hit the streets through local SNI affiliate chapers, and literally knock on doors talking to women about breast cancer. The Gift for Life Block Walk is a unique, innovative program that allows a personal sharing of survivor stories and the important work of distributing various breast care education materials.
Annual conference and more purposeful walking
Recently SNI hosted its 11th Annual National African-American Breast Cancer Conference in Houston, Texas and kicked off the first historic National African-American Breast Cancer 5K Walk/Run. Celebrity Walk Chair was Judge Glenda Hatchett and co-chair was former Tennis Superstar Zina Garrison, who was honoring her own sister’s battle with the disease. More than 4,000 breast cancer survivors, community leaders and supporters from across the country participated in the walk to raise funds and breast cancer awareness. National sponsor Sanofi-Aventis made it possible for the organization to reach its goal.
Jackson’s unwavering commitment to Stop the Silence in the African-American community is as fresh as the day she heard those dreadful three words: “You have cancer.” Jackson is grateful for the difference Sisters Network continues to make nationwide and honored that with faith and perseverance, she’s been able to keep her promise to her Sisters.
For additional information regarding the Sisters Network, please visit www.sistersnetworkinc.org; contact the organization at 2922 Rosedale St, Houston, TX 77004; call 713-781-0255 or 866-781-1808 (713-780-8998 fax); or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Crystal Brown-Tatum is a San Antonio, Texas native and author of Saltwater Taffy and Red High Heels: My Journey through Breast Cancer (Lulu Press, 2008). She is an honors graduate of The University of Houston in Radio-Television and Founder/CEO of Crystal Clear Communications; an award-winning PR firm based in Houston (www.crystalcommunicates.com).