Each week this month, we've been providing tips and information about breast cancer. This week, we talk to a survivor who shares her story from the initial diagnosis until now. She's not only sharing this with our Iris St. Meran, but with her entire community through the 'Witness Project' as a way to help and comfort others.
ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. -- Emma McDonald and Emma Owens-Richardson share the same first name. They also share the same mission of education and empowerment through an organization called the Witness Project.
"What the Witness Project wants to do is to save souls," said Owens-Richardson, a retired Community Health Counselor.
They are the souls of those who may be dealing with breast, cervical or colorectal cancer. It is done through sharing personal stories and information on how and where to get screened. They say some women, especially women of color, don't always seek out information and choose to keep the disease a secret. Not all those with the project have the disease, but they all believe healing can come through sharing.
Owens-Richardson said, "African American women die more readily than European women because they're not looking for the signs. They're diagnosed in stage 3 or stage 4 rather than being diagnosed in stage 1."
"I love to tell my story," McDonald shared.
She is a breast cancer survivor. She knew something was wrong but it didn't show up during initial tests. She says her persistence with her doctor saved her life.
McDonald recalled, "I went through chemo, lost all my hair, radiation went through it fine. I look back over my life because if you don't take charge of your body, then something will come up."
It's that something she doesn't want others to go through. That's why she bears witness. Information on where to get a free mammogram other screening if you have no insurance could mean the difference of life and death.
"It is best to know about these services and not need them than to need them and not know where to get them from,” McDonald added. “That's why we're here."
Here to show that cancer doesn't have to be a death sentence and there are people out there who care.
The Witness Project is a national organization. In Onondaga County there are about 30 volunteers. It is funded and sponsored by the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
For information about the project and other resources call the Onondaga County Health Department at (315) 435-3653.