By Dylan Deprey
At the age of 93 years old, Sylvia Washington died from pancreatic cancer.
Ironically enough, her favorite color was purple, the same color as the symbolic ribbon for pancreatic cancer.
Sylvia Washington’s daughter, Jennifer Washington-McMurray spent seven years working in radio at 1290 WMCS.
After getting her master’s degree in business, she went back to the radio station.
One of her first clients was the American Cancer Society and she fell in love.
Six months into working at The American Cancer Society, she looked for support in her own place of work. She was told her mother had three months to live.
“I wasn’t an employee. I was living it,” Jennifer Washington-McMurray said.
According to the American Cancer Society, one in two African American men will be diagnosed with cancer and one in three African American women will be diagnosed with cancer.
“Being diagnosed with cancer won’t kill you,” Washington-McMurray said. “Being screened too late will.”
Lung cancer is the number one cancer in the African American community.
The high rate of smoking due to stress and unhealthy lifestyles are the number one cause of lung cancer.
Behind that, breast and colon cancer are most common.
The American Cancer Society’s main goal is to break down barriers that may interfere with cancer education and early screening.
“There is always somebody that needs some kind of information,” Jennifer Washington-McMurray said. “People have fears.”
Jennifer Washington-McMurray is the Health Systems Manager, Primary Care at the American Cancer Society.
She manages the relationships with community organizations and Federal Health Care Centers.
Her job is to educate the community about prevention and screenings by nurturing relationships between federally qualified health clinics and hospitals.
“The best way to fight cancer is through preventable care,” Washington-McMurray said.
The American Cancer Society promotes preventable care by educating the public on healthy lifestyles and wellness in the community.
“We are on the bandwagon of teaching people to make healthy choices,” Washington-McMurray said.
Obesity is still a strong factor in the underserved community because of the education and cost of healthy food choices.
“People might not know about a farmer’s market,” Washington-McMurray said. “It’s easier to go to the corner store and get Twinkies or chips.”
The American Cancer Society also encourages the community to set up and attend annual wellness visits and screenings with their doctor or at a clinic.
Children and the elderly usually drive health appointments.
“Instead of being reactive first, we need to be proactive,” Jennifer Washington-McMurray said. “We need to teach the patient to be responsible.”
Some people have fears or doubts of cancer screenings like getting a mammogram or colonoscopy.
McMurray advises people that it may be uncomfortable or awkward but should take the “no pain, no gain” approach to their health.
There are many programs the American Cancer Society offers to the community and almost all are volunteer driven. Reach for Recovery is a program where cancer survivors meet with new cancer patients to walk them through their process and journey to recovery.
Another program offered is Hope House, where cancer patients who have to travel for their treatment and leave their home are offered free room and board at hotels.
American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery program provides volunteers with free rides to their treatment.
“Stress isn’t good during treatment, and we try to alleviate that,” Washington-McMurray said.
The American Cancer Society also helps fund and find funding for cancer research.
Improvements in chemotherapy and mammography have come from the initiative.
“We need research today to make the difference for tomorrow’s future,” Washington-McMurray said.
October is here, and so is Breast Cancer Awareness month.
This is the busiest time for The American Cancer Society.
They have many events to promote screenings and healthy lifestyle choices.
Crucial Catch Day is an event in October funded by the NFL in coordination with The American Cancer Society to promote health and reduce the risk of breast cancer.
There are classes and are even free clinical breast exams available on the day of the event.
Jennifer Washington-McMurray’s mother fuels the passion for her work. She takes an all-hands-on-deck approach to her work through events like Crucial Catch, and reaching out to the community.
“It’s a ministry for what I do, because I’ve seen what cancer can do,” Jennifer McMurray said.