Redstone survivor raises breast cancer awareness
November 9, 2011
In October, as part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Angela L. Sims, dual-cancer survivor and management analyst with Army Contracting Command, educated students at the University of Alabama in Huntsville on what individuals should know to protect their health.
The event was hosted by the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., a non-profit organization that is comprised of predominantly African-American, college-educated women and provides assistance and support through programs in local communities.
Sims survived cervical cancer in 1994 and breast cancer in 2004 and speaks throughout the United States, to include military bases and churches, to educate on cancer awareness, diagnosis and survival.
Through her breast cancer awareness presentations, she encourages the solidarity of mothers, sisters, aunts, wives and friends to have annual mammograms for the early detection and treatment of the disease.
Sims advises women to get a "mammogram buddy" and make a "girlfriends event" out of their annual exams. She reinforced that "cancer is not gender or race specific…it can affect man or woman. For those who receive annual screens, there is a better chance of survival - the earlier you catch it," she said.
Historically, African-American women, like Sims, are more likely to have the disease detected later, are more likely to be diagnosed with larger tumors and are more likely to die from the disease, but few realize that it is no longer a death sentence.
"When I do outreach in churches, there is a lot of fear," Sims said. "Few get their annual screenings."
She added that although African-American women are diagnosed with breast cancer slightly less than Caucasian women, "a lot of African-Americans are reluctant to go because of the culture... and because you were more likely to die from the disease," she said. "I didn't tell anybody until everything was over with. If I were to do this all over again, I wish I had told them earlier."
When Sims received the diagnosis of breast cancer in 2004, she told the students that she was surprised and upset, but she turned to her faith and remembered her children.
"I had already been through cancer once before," Sims said. "I had a good chance of survival and I didn't think it would hit me anymore. [The breast cancer diagnosis] kind of threw me for a loop. If I did not have the faith that I have, I might not be here today. I did not want my kids to see me sick and in the hospital anymore. This time I had a different will to live. "
For anyone diagnosed with cancer, Sims advises them not to get depressed.
"Take your medication and do everything you're supposed to do," she said. "Stay positive because your state of mind has a lot to do with your well-being. You can sit there in a state of depression and die. You can't give up the will to live. I wanted to live for my children and my husband; I did not want to succumb to this."
Following her presentation, the students released about 100 balloons with the names of current survivors and of those who had succumbed to breast cancer.