Shirley Black is one of the most open and giving people I have ever met.
Each year when writing my annual blog for breast cancer awareness month, she has always been open about her experiences with cancer and her commitment to help others on a similar journey.
Two years ago when I asked Shirley if she ever wondered why she was the one stricken. Her response while startling to me, was not surprising to those who know and love her. She simply said: “Why not me?”
According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 231,840 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in American women in 2015.
While less than 1% of new breast cancer diagnoses occur among men, it is possible for men to develop the disease.
The American Cancer Society predicts of the approximate 40,420 deaths from breast cancer this year, an estimated 450 of them will be men. African American men have a higher mortality rate compared to other races.
Some additional facts as we observe October Breast Cancer Awareness month:
- The biggest risk factors for breast cancer are being a woman and growing older. The average age of diagnosis is 61.
- The mortality rate from breast cancer is higher for African American women than for white women and women of other races. The survival rate in African American women is also shorter.
- Breast Cancer is the 2nd highest killer of African American women, 1st is lung cancer.
- Mammography is not prevention. Getting regular mammograms does not prevent you from getting breast cancer, but it does help with early detection which can be the key to survival
- Cancer survival starts with maintaining a healthy weight as overweight and obese women and men tend to be diagnosed with cancer.
- As with other illnesses, it starts with healthy eating to include 4 – 5 servings of fruits and vegetables.
- Most women who find their own breast cancer do so as part of normal routines (showering, getting dressed, etc.) not during systematic monthly breast self-exams.
For over 30 years, breast cancer survivor Shirley Black has been on the forefront of awareness campaigns that have helped move the disease from behind closed doors to an open conversation. Her efforts along with those of many others, have saved countless lives.
On February 11, 2015, Shirley died not of breast cancer but from another form of cancer. While many may say that she lost her battle with cancer, I and others who admired and loved her would disagree.
For Shirley lived her life with cancer as Paul commanded us in Romans 5:3-4
“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope”
With a strong character led by her faith, Shirley used her cancer as a platform to help others to not only to endure but to survive breast cancer.
Therefore, as we start this month of breast cancer awareness our thoughts turn to the courage of Shirley Black and others who instead of saying “why me?” said “why not me?”
With that attitude, Shirley and others like her emerged from the dark days of sickness to the sunny days of wellness. Devoting their renewed lives to encouraging, assisting and loving others who had also been stricken with breast cancer.
Today, like every day during her life, Shirley Black is raising awareness of breast cancer, its prevention, its treatment and its cure.
And in doing so Shirley’s life echoed Isaiah’s commission from the Lord when Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”
Responding to the Lord, Isaiah said: “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)
Shirley Black in saying “why not me?” answered the Lord’s call for ministry to those with breast cancer and greater awareness of the disease.
We can make no better tribute to Shirley’s memory and her wonderful spirit than to answer the call to raise awareness about breast cancer. Not only during the month of October, but every day and every month of the year.
Because for this call, we must answer as Shirley Black did “why not me?”