Glamcon: Surviving and thriving beyond a breast cancer diagnosis
By DIANE XAVIER
The Dallas Examiner
Black women have a 31% breast cancer mortality rate – higher than any other ethnic group in the United States. That makes Black women 40% more likely to die from breast cancer than White women, according to the Center for Disease Control.
While it’s true that mortality rates for women diagnosed with breast cancer has dropped universally over the past 20 years, there has been an increase in diagnoses in Black women. In particular, Black women triple negative breast cancer is diagnosed more often than White women.
In an effort to provide breast cancer information, including prevention, early detection and treatment, Shantaquilette Carter founded The Pink Peppermint Project in 2017. The organization provides wellness services to breast cancer patients and survivors – especially in October, during National Breast Cancer Awareness month.
On Oct. 10, the organization hosted the Glamcon Virtual Experience. The annual event was a virtual retreat designed to educate, empower, motivate and invigorate breast cancer patients, survivors, professionals and any other individuals who wished to transform their mind, body and soul.
The retreat featured mediation sessions, a cooking session, an affirmation and abundance session, information about femme health and fibroids, a glamourous conqueror panel and hip-hop yoga, as well as a revive and restore event and wellness check.
The one-day virtual event opened with a meditation session with Lisa Ware, an ordained minister, author, life and business, coach and reiki master teacher. Ware founded Yoga4Love.com in 2008 in honor of her mother who had breast cancer.
Ware kicked off the day with a yoga meditation and told her story about her mom who fought breast cancer and inspired others.
“This whole event is about thriving and surviving and vitality and wellness and health and sisterhood, entrepreneurship,” she said. “The story why I am here was that my mother was a breast cancer survivor and back in 1986 when I was in seventh grade, she got breast cancer. It was very devastating. Back in the 80’s there was a lot of need for women to have sisterhood and she didn’t have a whole lot of that. When she got really sick, it wasn’t something we really talked about or shared like it was today.”
Ware’s mom was involved with The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and would participate in the annual Race For The Cure walk.
“For those of you who are thriving, that’s what we are here for, we are here to celebrate together,” Ware said. “This feeling of community is so super important when we are going through journeys. We need each other. We need our sisters; we need our tribes. And that is why we are here today is to show up for others to show up as a sisterhood and as a tribe and to have fun.”
Next, the keynote speaker, Michelle J. Lamont, host of Manifesting Miracles podcast, gave participants an insight into manifestation in a talk titled, The Time is Now: Affirmation and Abundance.
“A cancer cell isn’t an enemy of ours, but it is just an unhealthy cell that is reproducing and reproducing at a faster rate than our healthiest cells are,” Lamont said. “Which one are you going to give more power to in your affirmation and in your practices, in your daily abundances, and routines. To me and to you it is logical to be in connection with and in touch with the healthy cells. Think of it as a power of a mustard seed. You want to take that cell and give it everything you have, all of your energy, love and attention. Stop talking about the cell that is reproducing, that is causing the sickness, that is forcing your life force energy to be not strong and as vibrant. We are strong vibrational beings and when we are in an unhealthy state and connecting to that low vibration within us, we are attracting and creating more unhealthy vibrations not only in our aura, homes, or lives, but in our bodies.”
Carter then emphasized the importance of staying positive after the affirmation and abundance session with Lamont.
“The power of the tongue speaks life and death and that is so important,” Carter said. “It is important that you speak life over you. It has so much value when doing anything. I know myself as a stroke and heart attack survivor. If you think powerful, powerful things will happen.”
Furthermore, the glamcon featured a session about women’s health with Dr. Jessica Shepherd, a board-certified OB/GYN, women’s health expert and minimally invasive surgeon. Shepherd and moderator Ashley Johnson, vice president of the Pink Peppermint Project, discussed femme health and fibroids.
Johnson shared her story about her fibroids experience.
“I was diagnosed with fibroids and at first I told my physician something was not right with my body,” Johnson said. “I didn’t have all of the symptoms. I just had one of the symptoms which was heavy bleeding so all of the other things people were saying such as I have extended periods for two weeks or I am having such painful periods, I wasn’t having that. When I was having a five to seven-day period it was excessive. I told my physician, and they didn’t take it seriously at first. Just trying to assess being heard and then the struggle to find the proper physician once I did get it confirmed.”
Johnson was turned away for treatment of her fibroids at first when she was first diagnosed.
“It opened up more struggles with things I didn’t know,” she said.
For females who are struggling similarly or who have questions about fibroids or femme health, Shepherd offered her thoughts.
“Every individual has their own story and is different,” Shepherd said. “When we think of fibroids, everyone’s journey is different.”
According to Johnson, 60% to 80% of women are said to have fibroids in their life whether it is symptomatic or asymptomatic whether or not they realize it.
Shepherds explained what fibroids are.
“Fibroids are the most common benign tumor in the female pelvis,” Shepherd said. “So when we look across the board of any race, Asian, Caucasian or Hispanic, Black women that statistic is going to give us 50% by the time they are 51 they are going to have a fibroid. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it is symptomatic or small. That just means if we do an ultrasound, they are probably going to have a fibroid. When we bring that to African American women, that is going to jump to 75% to 80%. When we look at symptoms and who is having symptoms it could be anywhere from 25% to 30%. In that percentage we are focusing on women because the other thing that we have to consider is we really want to sort through those symptoms because we might be giving medication or surgery to every woman who has a fibroid and that is not our intent. Our intent is to deal with women as they are going through with it and it is starting to impact their quality of life in some way.”
Shepherd was asked what exams or tests women should be asking for to detect if they suspect they have fibroids.
“For me, one of the easiest ways to get an answer from a clinical standpoint is to get an ultrasound,” Shepherd said. “An ultrasound is a really good way to see if you have fibroids and is a good baseline.”
Shepherd was then asked by Johnson what language or rhetoric should women use to describe to their doctor about what kind of pain they are having in regards to fibroids.
“Pain is subjective and just using the word pain it means nothing,” she said. “We need to know what type of specific pain you are experiencing and what that means for you. When it comes to bleeding, the best way to address that is to tell me how it has impacted the quality of your life.”
And finally, the virtual retreat had a glamorous conqueror panel which featured Carter, Sheila McGlown and Maimah Karmo. McGlown is a United States Air Force veteran and breast cancer survivor and Karmo is founder and CEO of the Tigerlily Foundation.
“When was the last time somebody said to you, Hey sis, are you good?” Carter said. “Those are two fundamental words that we all need. We need someone to check on us to make sure that we are doing well and to help us get through those muddy waters that we are going through.”
McGlown explained during her darkest times with cancer, what she did to help her cope and not give up.
“Just trusting God and helping other people,” McGlown said. “When I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, the first question I asked my doctor was ‘am I going to die.’ Because the average for metastatic breast cancer patients diagnosed with stage four breast cancer was three to five years. But ten years later, I am still here. I went to church the day I found out and the pastor lay hands on me and told me I was going to be healed and said I had to share my story with everyone I come into contact with. So I took that and asked God that He needs to do whatever he needs in my life, and I promised to you that I would share my testimony and that is what I am doing now. And it has been an amazing journey.”
Karmo also had breast cancer and was diagnosed in 2006. She is a 14-year glamorous conqueror of breast cancer. At Tigerlily, her foundation, her mission is to inspire and educate young women with breast cancer.
Karmo was asked by Carter what she wished she knew at the time of her diagnosis with breast cancer.
“I wish I knew how powerful I was,” Karmo said. “I feel like cancer happens to you and it is just like getting hit by a train. A new part of you awakens and the part of me that awakened was this free spirited and my soul broke open and I was like, ‘God how can I serve and empower others?’ I realize that I lived my whole life before that in a way that was okay, but I lived with a purpose of not serving others before. I promised to God that as long as I survive that I would give my life to him in service to uphold other women. You are more powerful than you can ever imagine. I also wish I knew much more about breast cancer. The health market has not marketed information about women’s health such as breast health to the media for women of color. Not knowing what is coming at you and you are just blindly living your life is a problem for me. I wish I knew now the importance of educating young women early. The importance of educating women like Sheila who had metastatic breast cancer. I think when you know better you do better.”