At age 77, Ella Thompson was met with the harsh reality that she had breast cancer.
While laying in bed one night, she discovered some nodules in her right breast.
“I thought perhaps they were cysts, and I could press them and get the liquid out, but that didn’t happen. They remained there,” Thompson recalled. “I went to a doctor and had him check it out. He sent me to have a mammogram, and it verified that I had cancer. It was a shock.”
Prior to discovering the nodules, Thompson hadn’t had a mammogram in a couple years. The National Cancer Institute recommends that women age 40 or older have mammograms done every one to two years.
“I try to encourage anyone who discovers something to follow through with examination, and get the mammogram every year,” Thompson said. “We fear the pain of the mammogram [but] that’s short term.”
February 17, 2004 marks the day that Thompson was informed that she had Stage 2a (IIA) breast cancer. In March of that year, she had a mastectomy done to her right breast. She underwent six chemotherapy treatments following her surgery.
Fortunate enough to not experience any hair loss or other side effects associated with breast cancer, it took Thompson a few years to overcome her battle with cancer. She's remained cancer-free ever since.
“If you get the diagnosis, it is not a death sentence. There is life after diagnosis,” Thompson said. “If you have the faith and you have a positive attitude, you can overcome adversities, as long as you trust in God and do things that you should to further your health.”
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), more than 27,000 African-American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year; more than 6,000 of these women are estimated to succumb to the disease. Black women are 41 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women, according to ACS. However, white women are diagnosed with breast cancer at a higher rate than black women.
Thompson is a member of the Memphis chapter of Sisters Network, a national organization composed of African-American breast cancer survivors. The organization seeks to increase local and national attention on the impact of breast cancer, which affects more than 200,000 women annually.
In light of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Sisters Network Memphis will host its 9th Annual Gift for Life Block Walk on Saturday, October 19th from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Promise Land Church (3430 Overton Crossing). The Block Walk will be followed by a Health Fair, which will feature more than 30 health vendors, free food and haircuts, door prizes, and allow women to apply for mammogram screening. The Health Fair will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the church as well.
For more information on the Block Walk or Health Fair, contact Sisters Network Memphis president Carolyn Whitney at (901) 789-7239 or visit sistersnetworkmemphis.org
Click here to check out a recent Memphis Flyer article on Sisters Network Memphis