Anita Conner and Kerri Conner-Matchett, Philadelphia County
“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh I gave my daughter breast cancer.’” That’s what Philadelphia survivor Anita Conner thought when her daughter, Kerri was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, exactly 10 years to the day after Anita’s own diagnosis. Now together, they’re on a mission to educate and motivate women of color to get breast health screenings and treatments.
My husband and I found the lump on my left breast. I went to the gynecologist and he said there’s a lump there but it’s not cancerous. So… you go about your business. It just so happened later that I was having some issues and we decided to have a hysterectomy. The surgeon wanted to do a biopsy on the lump and that’s when we learned I had advanced stage breast cancer. Over 18 months had passed. Of the 20 lymph nodes tested, 14 were malignant. I had the breast removed and had high dose chemotherapy.
I was very fortunate in that I own my own business as a CPA. It turned out to be the best year in business. People have a tendency to step up to the plate when they’re needed. I continued to work when I could because that’s what I needed to do to heal.
After I started getting better, we recognized that in our community there wasn’t enough information about breast cancer in African-American women. We came up with the idea to reach out to the faith-based community because that’s where the women are … they are in church. We approached ten churches that are clients of ours and proposed a day we called Praise Sunday. On Praise Sunday we would give out literature to the congregation and have a speaker present a two or three minute talk. All of the churches said yes. This year is our 10th anniversary and now that has expanded into the Week of Hope, Health, and Healing. The last Sunday in September is Praise Sunday, then throughout the week there are survivors pamper parties, a health fair, and a program called Real Men Wear Pink. We close out with a concert on Saturday. It has grown into a nonprofit called Praise is the Cure. This year the youth festival will be presented in 25 sites in the Philadelphia school district, and we expect to reach 400 churches in the tri-state area with Praise Sunday.
I want other women to know that breast cancer is not a death sentence. You have to be active in your health and remember that no one knows your body better than you do. For more information on Anita’s nonprofit, Praise is the Cure, click here.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, exactly ten years to the day after my mother. The lump was above my breast area. My daughter was two years old and I had br
eastfed her, so some people thought it might have been milk in the milk ducts. But because of my mother’s experience, I thought I’d better get it checked out. It was stage 3 breast cancer and very aggressive. I was 33 years old.
I had high dose chemo, a double mastectomy, radiation, and two more years of chemo and then reconstructive surgery.
I had a huge support system. I knew it would be a tough journey but I didn’t have any doubt about surviving because I’d seen my mother make it. She was my advocate. I knew my hair would fall out, my skin would turn a different color, my nails might turn black. I also knew I was going to get a brand new pair of breasts and even a flat stomach!
My husband and I have a daughter and are now trying to adopt two more children, foster children who were placed with us. They are all a blessing. Madison will be nine in March, James is four and Haniyah is three. A lot of women have trouble talking to their children about what’s happening. With that in mind, I wrote a book called, “My Mommy has Breast Cancer but She’s OK.”
When I was diagnosed someone told me that a Monarch butterfly travels 1,000 miles in its lifetime. If a butterfly can do it, you can. Don’t give up and you’ll make it to your destination.