By Karen Stokes
Lisa Taylor Goodwin is a breast cancer survivor. Even though she had experience with the disease through supporting her mother as she fought her cancer battle, that didn’t diminish Goodwin’s fear when she was diagnosed with the disease.
Goodwin, who was diagnosed at the age of 37, was the fifth woman in her family to have breast cancer including a cousin who died of breast cancer due to a fear of receiving the treatments. After her diagnosis, Goodwin reached out to family and friends for support, and that support gave her the strength to fight and advocate for others
“I wanted to let others know my testimony and my journey. Early detection saved my life, the reason I am here,” said Goodwin. “Sister Pact has changed my life.”
On Wed. March 2, the Wisconsin Breast Cancer Task Force launched the Sister Pact ad campaign during an event at the Social Development Commission on North Avenue.
Goodwin, along with her Sister Pact friends, Regina Watts-Julien, Georgia Wright and Alice’s Garden founder Venice Williams will be featured in a targeted ad campaign, which will be displayed on billboards, bus boards, television, digital and print media.
Sister Pact is a breast cancer awareness program that encourages women to make a commitment– a Sister Pact–to address their breast health. The call-to-action program was formed in response to a 2016 study on Breast and Colorectal Cancer Survival Disparities in an 8-county region in southeastern Wisconsin, including the City of Milwaukee. In Milwaukee, dozens of community groups, neighborhood associations, health organizations, local leaders, faith organizations, businesses and others are collaborating on community events and resources for the Sister Pact program.
Sister Pact began in Memphis, Tennessee to address mortality disparities in 2015. The pilot project was measured after six months and showed remarkably successful outcomes with over 90 percent of women saying they intended to take action. Almost 80 percent had already made a Sister Pact, visited the directory, or gotten screened, and 20 percent received a mammogram, according to the WI Breast Cancer Task Force.
The Milwaukee program’s goal is to encourage African American women living in a focused seven zip code area to make a pact with a friend or family member to get a mammogram.
According to a regional study, women in these targeted areas are nearly twice as likely to die from breast cancer as those living in surrounding neighborhoods.
The targeted zip codes are 53203, 53205, 53206, 53208, 53210, 53213, 53216 and 53233.
“These zip codes are important to focus on. There is a concerted effort across the city to look at these zip codes because of the other health disparities that exists,” said Bevan Baker, City of Milwaukee Commissioner of Health. “The lack of a medical home is one of the big concerns. I encourage everyone to look at advocacy over the next several months as we look at what may happen to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). There were components within the ACA as it exists that were really drivers to have women seek medical care.”
Dr. Sandra Underwood, Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee said that the number one risk factor for developing breast cancer is just being a woman. The greater number of women who have breast cancer had no known markers. Women must have conversations with their family about health history and their doctors.
“We have no problem going to the nail shop together. We have no problem going to the mall together. We even, do I say, have no problem going to the club together but what’s very important is that we lead one another down a path of self-care,” said Venice Williams, executive director of Alice’s Garden.
The success of the pilot program in Memphis will hopefully be duplicated in Milwaukee.
“I thank Regina Watts-Julien for being my Sister Pact,” Goodwin said. “For being the person that was there for me.”
“Make a vow, I will go with you, I will support you. Women need a support system,” said Watts-Julien.
“When Black women have equal access and information and die 10 years sooner that’s a problem for Milwaukee. That’s a problem for Wisconsin, that’s bad for America,” Baker said. “Knowledge is the equalizer.”
For more information visit www.sisterpact.com.