The recent Thelma D. Jones Breast Cancer Support Group (TDJ BCSG) meeting was chock-full of ingredients for a successful meeting, including information sharing, resources, networking, healthy refreshments, and a lot of fun. Emcee Lorenita Lucas, MPA, RYT, who is also a survivor of advanced breast cancer, shared her journey and how teaching and practicing yoga and other integrative therapies have helped her to remain positive throughout her survivorship. Lucas, a newly appointed American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer ambassador, masterfully led the kick-off of the support group’s 2016 walk. She also announced her intent to create a team as opposed to joining the support group’s TJ Striders.

Two-time TJ Striders Team Leader Anthia Peters, a 20-year survivor, provided a campaign pep talk and raised the bar by announcing a 50% goal increase over last year’s effort of winning the coveted Pacesetter’s goal ($2500). Tami Brown, senior community manager for the south Atlantic division of ACS Inc, calmed the two competitive enthusiasts, provided a brief overview of ACS, and reminded the two team leaders that she looked forward to working with them in achieving their goals. The Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk will be Saturday, Oct. 2, at 10 a.m. (registration begins at 9 a.m.), at the Sylvan Theater, Washington Monument, 15th Street & Independence Ave. SW, Washington, DC. To register for the walk, visit www.MakingStridesWalk.org/WashingtonDC. Each guest then introduced themselves by sharing their years of survivorship (totaling more than 70 years), the role as a caretaker, and that of a supporter of the cause.

Guest speaker Carole O’Toole, MS, who is the director of the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts Institute for Integrative Oncology Navigation in Washington, DC delivered an engaging “101 Talk” on integrative therapy and integrative oncology. She began with an overview of the Smith Center’s benefits and resources available to the DC community, including the information resources, healthy classes, and highly acclaimed cancer retreats offered regularly by the center at their 1632 U St. NW location. O’Toole also shared her cancer story and motivation of her personal experience as a 22-year survivor of advanced breast cancer, which inspired her development of the Smith Center’s groundbreaking integrative navigation model and co-creation of their national training in integrative cancer care navigation. During her 20 years of experience as an integrative navigator she has directed the establishment of hospital and community-based integrative navigation programs and leads a team of integrative navigators that provide one-on-one free counseling to any adult with cancer and caregivers as well. O’Toole’s must-read books entitled Healing Outside the Margins and Cancer Community Healing Network, were autographed and donated as door prizes, and were won by participants who felt they had hit the lottery in integrative care.

A second highlight of the support group meeting included a breast health presentation by Patricia Coulthurst, who is the director of Washington Cancer Institute’s Patient Support Services and Janel Diaz, an avon community navigator for MedStar Washington Hospital Center-Washington Cancer Institute/Patient Support Services. The presenters discussed their areas of focus in Wards 5, 7, and 8, where the incidences and mortality rates of breast cancer are among the highest in the nation. Coulthurst and Diaz discussed the barriers to screening, the importance of early detection, how to overcome the barriers through culturally sensitive outreach and educational strategies, and locations of screening sites.

Both presentations were followed by a Q&A sesson, networking, and healthy refreshments compliments of support group members Jenelle Leonard and Vyllorya Evans. Excitement and competition arose again when support group members were asked questions about the presentations that enabled them to receive giveaways compliments of Coulthurst and Diaz and win more door prizes, which included 10 unique, hand-crafted, double-strand pink bracelets compliments of Jaysan Jewelry.

The next TDJ BCSG meeting will be Wednesday, June 15, at 6:30 p.m. in the SWNA-ANC conference room at 1101 4th St., SW. Guest speaker Shirley Bush, an advocate and survivor, will share her journey with both breast and kidney cancer along with an aneurysm. It’s a fascinating story of strength, courage, hope, and positive attitude, among other things. Don’t miss it!

Founded in April 2010, the TDJ BCSG is the signature program of the Thelma D. Jones Breast Cancer Fund, which was established on the occasion of Jones’s 60th birthday in Sept. 2012. Since the support group’s inception, more than 600 women and men, mostly breast cancer survivors and caretakers, have attended the meetings as a safe space to seek support and comfort, share their journeys, and find their voice while traveling their breast cancer journey, to hear highly skilled speakers, network, and have lots of fun. For more information on the support group, please email info@tdjbreastcancerfund.org or call Thelma D. Jones at (202) 251-1639.

By: Thelma D. Jones

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