|The Brown Missionary Baptist Church Cancer |
Support Group. (Photo: Wiley Henry)
Friday, January 23, 2015
Brown Baptist stands in the gap for cancer survivors
“We want you to get well, stay well, and be healthy,” Pam Taylor Verdung told a group of cancer survivors and supporters recently at the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) Mid-South Division’s first monthly meeting at Brown Missionary Baptist Church in Southaven, Miss.
More than 20 women, including two men, reflected on the past year, discussed new business, and remembered those among the group who recently lost the battle to cancer – Jackie Evans and Joe Harvey.
Although the death rate from cancer has fallen 22 percent since 1991, there will be 1,658,370 new cancer cases this year and 589,430 deaths from cancer, the American Cancer Society’s journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians reported recently.
“We’re diagnosing cancer earlier,” said Verdung, the senior director of community engagement for the ACS’s Mid-South Division. “That’s why you’re seeing better treatment. And it’s because the volunteers and doctors help us to get the word out.”
Brown MBC is playing an active role in disseminating information through its partnership with the ACS and expanding its reach in “the communities to support those that are dealing with this dreadful decease.”
“We believe that ‘I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me,’” said Dr. Bartholomew Orr, the church’s senior pastor, referencing a Bible verse that denotes his belief in the power of healing through faith and prayer and his support of the church’s Cancer Support Group.
“Our belief here at Brown Missionary Baptist Church is to watch over one another in brotherly love; to remember each other in prayer; to aid each other in sickness and distress; to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and courtesy in speech; to be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation, and, mindful of the rules of our Saviour, (and) to obey it without delay,” Dr. Orr said.
In 2011, the Cancer Support Group sponsored a Cancer Prevention Study, or CPS-3 study, of which Danita Brown, an ACS volunteer, coordinated. Brown is also a breast cancer survivor and member of the “Community Action Team of Shelby County” CHA program. CHAs (Community Health Advisors) are volunteers who advise, advocate, mentor, assist and refer women to appropriate resources for screenings, treatment and care.
“We reach out to men and women with all cancers,” Brown said.
“The support group promoted the study through the churches internal organizations and health ministry,” said Bert Fayne, a health initiatives representative for the ACS of Tennessee. “Pastor Bartholomew Orr made announcements at all three services encouraging members to participate in the study.”
Dr. Orr enrolled in the CPS-3 study himself, Fayne said.
“After Pastor Orr came down from the pulpit and enrolled, additional members followed. The event was so successful, we ran out of screening supplies.”
Without the church’s support, Fayne believes the ACS would not have made its goal of African-American enrollment and participation. Because African-Americans have a higher mortality rate of cancer than whites, their participation is essential for cancer prevention studies.
The ACS is second in the nation to the federal government in supplying funds for cancer research. Breast cancer is among the cancers that ratchet up the mortality rate and drive Brown MBC’s support of cancer survivors and its advocacy of cancer research. African-American women are more likely to die from breast cancer before age 40 than non-Hispanic white women, the ACS reported in its Surveillance and Health Services Research in 2013.
The support group is very active in the community, steering women to get help and participating in such initiatives as the annual “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” (MSABC) walk to “finish the fight against breast cancer.”
MSABC unites the community to honor and celebrate breast cancer survivors while raising money to fund life-saving research, support programs, and provide free resources to help women through every step of the cancer journey.
In 2013 and 2014, the support group donated to benefit MSABC. The group also sponsors an annual brunch for breast cancer survivors from Memphis and Mississippi.
Free mammogram information also is given to women who are uninsured and in need of a mammogram, Fayne said.
“We go out into the community and educate women and men on the importance of knowing their bodies,” added Brown, who participates in community educational programs at local churches. She also makes media appearances to reach African-American women and the underserved population.
Fayne attends meetings each year, too, at the behest of the support group. She keeps them updated on the latest information and services of the ACS.
Community Health Advisors also make their rounds at church events throughout the year. Besides advocating for women, they set up educational displays on cancer awareness and detection, programs and services, such as transportation to the doctor’s office for cancer patients.
Although cancer can be successfully treated, Brown said, “We’re determined that if cancer comes back, it just has to catch us.”
(For more information about the American Cancer Society, contact Bert Fayne at (901) 725-8629.)