[00:00:00] Adam Walker: From Susan G Komen, This is Real Pink, a podcast exploring real stories, struggles, and triumphs related to breast cancer. We’re taking the conversation from the doctor’s office to your living room.
[00:00:17] This episode of the Real Pink Podcast was brought to you by AstraZeneca. AstraZeneca is leading a revolution in oncology with the ambition to provide cures for cancer in every form, following the science to understand cancer and all its complexities to discover, develop and deliver life-changing medicines to patients. Learn more at astrazeneca-us.com
[00:00:41] Welcome to the Komen Health Equity Revolution podcast series. Each month, we invite in patients, community organizations, health care partners, researchers and policy advocates to discuss strategies and solutions that drive the health equity revolution forward for multiple populations experiencing breast health inequities.
[00:01:02] Susan G. Komen’s Worship in Pink is a volunteer-driven breast health educational program powered by local faith-based communities. The program empowers faith communities with knowledge and resources to take an active role in their breast health. Here today to discuss the Worship in Pink program and why it is so important for Black congregations are Desiree Elder, Associate Pastor at First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem, and Se’Nita Harris, an FCBC church member and Komen’s Multicultural Marketing Manager. Welcome to the show, Desiree and Se’Nita!
[00:01:38] Desiree Elder: Hello. Thank you for having me.
[00:01:42] Se’Nita Harris: Hi, Adam. Thank you.
[00:01:45] Adam Walker: Good to see you again, Se’Nita and Desiree. Thank you for joining us. I’m really looking forward to hearing more about this program. Se’Nita, let’s start with you. Can you tell us more about your story and how your faith played a role in your treatment process?
[00:02:00] Se’Nita Harris: Absolutely. So I was diagnosed in 2020 during the pandemic, and I felt like it was one of the scariest times in our country. So for someone to be diagnosed at a very scary time during COVID, I really had to lean upon my faith to get me through the process.
[00:02:27] A lot of the times when you’re diagnosed, the first thing when you tell someone, they tell you about the statistics. They tell you about someone in their family that they know who was diagnosed and passed away. And that is something that can be scary for someone who’s newly diagnosed. So I was fortunate enough to already have a strong foundation in faith. I attend church every Sunday. I’m always watching sermons online and I am devoted in my Bible. So for me, when I was diagnosed, I knew I had to lean upon my faith and also find a community that also was into faith and motivational… in terms of motivation.
[00:03:21] So for me, I found a lot of studies online that also said that people who lean upon faith during cancer treatment actually make it out, right? Because you have to find, you know, something beyond yourself, right? To get you to the final finish line. Because, you know, when you’re first diagnosed, you’re not in treatment, but as you go into treatment, every day is tough.
[00:03:51] And there are moments when you’re in that doctor’s office, in the chair, in the biopsy rooms, in the MRI machines, where there’s no one there with you but God. So for me, I made sure that I remembered the scriptures. I found that there are so many scriptures in the Bible that talk about healing. So I took all the scriptures that I could find and I wrote them on note cards and I would throw them in my bag as I was going into treatment.
[00:04:28] And sometimes you’re waiting forever for the doctors. So those were moments where I was able to really reflect and look over those scriptures and encourage myself. So that was that was really for me, what got me through a majority of it. All the prayers, I would constantly have people calling me just to pray over me. And also I joined a lot of prayer calls. And it just felt so good just to have that assurance and that community and connection to my faith.
[00:05:04] Adam Walker: Yeah, that’s great. The power of faith. The power of community is so important as people are going through those hard times. So Desiree, a question for you. FCBC has a long history of providing health services for diseases that highly impact the black community, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, and HIV. So can you talk to us about that history and what the services look like?
[00:05:27] Desiree Elder: Absolutely. Well, historically in black churches, you know, the church was the epicenter of your community. So you were not just going there for faith. That’s where you were finding out the latest news, you were getting resources. So in us wanting to be the church, we’re very much known for our community work. We’re very much known for not just helping those who have to step into the building, but providing resources. We believe that being the church extends beyond the four walls.
[00:05:56] There’s a scripture that talks about the idea that Jesus says, “When you did it for me. When you did it for the least of these.” And it was about when people were hungry, you fed them, you know what I mean? When they were cold, you clothed them. And in that same way, we can’t just have the notion of faith without the action.
[00:06:14] And so, for us, helping to provide the services meant that if people feel we’re already a safe space, and they have that faith portion, what could we do to help with, you know, with, like you said, we’ll have prostate cancer trucks outside the church, mammogram trucks. We have done… we had a long standing, you know, HIV ministry because we also wanted to destigmatize these things and helping people to feel safe to have conversation about these things.
[00:06:42] We also have a free mental health facility, because that is another type of disease that is plaguing our community. Our Hope Center where we do free mental health, we do free counseling, therapy, we have a psychiatrist there. So we’re very much about expanding the ways in which we can have impact, not just on people’s faith, but also on their health and the longevity of their life.
[00:07:06] Adam Walker: Wow. It sounds like you’re doing an amazing amount of stuff for the community. That’s fantastic. I’m so, inspired. I think inspired is the word for that. That’s fantastic. Well, thank you for that.
[00:07:17] So Se’Nita, you’re an FCBC member and you’ve seen firsthand how the outreach has benefited, you know, the church, the local community. Love for you to talk just a little bit more about that.
[00:07:30] Se’Nita Harris: Yeah. So I’m originally from Chicago. So coming into Harlem, it was a shock for me. And right away, like I was on a hunt for a great church, right? So FCBC, I’ve been here for like 11 years and I’ve attended for almost that same amount. And what captured me the most about FCBC is that they do a lot for the community.
[00:07:52] And not only that, but a person like myself can get involved because, you know, it’s just, it’s such an impact that you can make. And they do everything from food pantry to breakfast for kids before school. And I’ve participated in that several times where getting up super early and just seeing kids be fed warms my heart.
[00:08:18] And so in terms of like their health ministry as well, I just think it’s important, especially for someone like myself, who’s gone through it. And I also think that they have a lot of members in the community who are advocates, right? So there are always opportunities or programs that are empowering people in the congregation to kind of give back.
[00:08:43] And not only that, but to really put themselves first in terms of their health. And I’ve just been, you know, following FCBC for a while and I’ve also participated like in the women’s ministry. And so I think that FCBC does a great job of really giving back to the community and helping with those programs.
[00:09:05] Adam Walker: I love that. It sounds like you’ve really plugged in. That’s amazing. So, Desiree, then back to you. You know, I wonder if you talk more about why it’s important for church leaders to empower people in the congregation to put their faith in action and to take charge of their breast health.
[00:09:22] Desiree Elder: I think there’s a scripture that talks about faith without works is dead and it’s the notion that it’s not just about faith, it’s also about the action behind it. So, as faith leaders, we aren’t doing our job if we are just telling people to pray about things and just have faith about things. It’s the notion that there are resources out in this world, in this community. There are doctors. There are medicine. There are all these… these ways in which we can empower ourselves to take charge of our lives.
[00:09:51] And so I think helping people to feel like that is something that they should do. And then, we also, sharing the fact that we do those things, you know, making people aware of the things that we are doing to take action in our life, then shows that we’re not just talking about it, but we are being about it.
[00:10:09] And especially with breast health, again, like especially among women… second most common type of cancer in the U.S. But for black women, it’s the most common cause of cancer. So we would not be even doing our due diligence to the majority of our congregation if we were not pushing them to…to think about these things, to move in these things, to go see the doctor, to have the mammogram, to have the conversation, to, you know, pray to and do all of those things, but also take those actionable steps.
[00:10:44] Adam Walker: You know, and it occurs to me, and this isn’t technically one of my questions, but I’m going to ask it anyway. So it occurs to me that, you know, you talk about there’s faith… and then there’s action. And you’ve got to be ready to take action, and you’re actively encouraging these people. But I also know that in the black community, there is kind of this… not wanting to talk about things. Not wanting to really do that thing. So, so how do you, like, if you don’t mind me asking, like, how do you overcome that?
[00:11:12] Desiree Elder: I think, one, we try to foster opportunities for conversation. We use our — Se’Nita can tell you — we use the pulpit and Sundays a lot to deal with what is happening in life. We do not shy away from those things. So, from the pulpit, we will be talking about the very real things that are happening in people’s lives.
[00:11:35] We’re known for, you know, we will talk about suicide and pray for people over that. You know, if it’s about domestic violence. We do not shy away from having those conversations. I think because people see that we do that, they understand that this is a place where you can have conversation. We also have things like what we call ‘coffee and conversation,’ where, for instance, you can come to that and you can ask any question you want.
[00:11:58] And if you don’t want to share your name, people can write their questions on a postcard or a little… and put it in a box. And then we answer those questions and there’s a level of anonymity there while you’re still getting help and probably asking a question that somebody else has. So we try to foster those spaces, both large and small, where people feel safe to have the difficult conversations.
[00:12:20] Adam Walker: I love that. I love all that. That’s amazing. You’re doing amazing work.
[00:12:25] Se’Nita, back to you. Can you tell us why health equity work is so important in Black churches, which can serve the foundation of local communities?
[00:12:34] Se’Nita Harris: Yes. So it is so important .And we know the statistics in terms of black women.
[00:12:41] Black women are 40 percent more likely to die than white women of breast cancer. And not only that, black women are diagnosed younger and with more aggressive types of breast cancer. So that is one reason why the church is very important. To Desiree’s point, it’s a safe place where we can talk about these types of topics and feel comfortable.
[00:13:03] So it’s an opportunity for churches to be… to actually have that educational information because what we want to do is make sure that we’re training people to know about their breast health, to know their normal. Not only that in churches, we know that families attend. So this is also a great opportunity to have conversations with across generations from the child, to the mom, to the grand… to the grandmother about these topics so that people can know their history.
[00:13:34] Also, I think that in terms of the community, you feel more supported when you can have those conversations and discussions. And also, one other thing too is that the church also offers a lot of free services like mammograms. Mammogram buses. Those are so important because some people can’t afford it.
[00:13:55] So if it’s there offered at the church, I think that is just such an important thing. They don’t have to think about how they’re going to get there. They can just go after church and have that service done. So I think all those things kind of touch upon why it’s so important to have these conversations around health equity at the church.
[00:14:16] Adam Walker: The more I hear you talk about it, the more I’m profoundly impressed with how many services you offer to the community. That’s fantastic. So speaking of, Desiree, can you tell us more about the Worship in Pink events that will be held at FCBC during the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
[00:14:33] Desiree Elder: Yes, we are super excited to be partnering with Susan G Komen. We’ve previously had like, Pink Sundays, but they weren’t in collaboration with in this way where we could be intentional not just about that Sunday. But again, how we offer up other opportunities to increase awareness. So, one of the things we’re doing is we’re doing a photo shoot where we also launch merch for Breast Cancer Awareness Month that we sell. And we’re taking a portion of those proceeds and we are donating that to Susan G. Komen’s Health Equity Fund.
[00:15:04] But we’re inviting survivors and loved ones who have journeyed with folk through the diagnosis to come and be part of their photo shoot and then take quotes from them that we can kind of share and that we can just put a face to things. Sometimes when you can put a face to something or to someone, it’s like, man, I didn’t even know they were going through that.
[00:15:23] I didn’t even know that they experienced that. So it also kind of has a way of bringing people together and understanding that you never know the struggle of the person who is on your left or your right. So we’re doing that photo shoot. Of course, we’re doing this podcast. That we are going to share with our congregation and encourage them to watch.
[00:15:43] We’re doing several social media activations, whether it’s polls, questions, releasing stats that are going to invite people to share and share their own stories that we can reshare. We are doing an event on Wednesday, October 25th, and it’s called Don’t Just Pray About It. And it is a conversation with myself, with Se’Nita, with some other, you know, health folk to just talk about why we need to do more than just pray about the things, why we need to take action towards our health and especially our breast health.
[00:16:15] So we’re going to feed people beause we love to do that. You get people to come with food, give them a little wine, and have this conversation around our health, and then finally culminating with our Worship In Pink Sunday. Which we are so excited about. We’re building a wall of hope. We’re going to have the mammogram truck. And we’re incentivizing people by giving them prizes, gift cards, or whatever to go get the mammograms.
[00:16:38] So… and then also I’m going to get a mammogram on that day because I just turned 40. So being able to do that. And the theme of that service for us is like unstoppable joy because it is also the notion that the diagnosis is not the end. There is still life to be living. There’s a way in which even in the cracks of our pain that we can find joy, we’re going to be providing resources, Se’Nita is going to come up and talk on behalf of Susan G Komen. So we are just really excited about all of the things that we are going to be doing to promote breast cancer awareness month.
[00:17:11] Adam Walker: I might need to watch this online. Like this sounds amazing. I love it. Okay. Se’Nita, I’m going to get you to send me a link. All right. All right. All right. So, Se’Nita, I’d love for you to talk a little bit about why Komen’s Worship in Pink program is so important to bring to black churches.
[00:17:26] Se’Nita Harris: So Worship in Pink is really important. It’s offered to faith based communities, churches, synagogues, and so it’s important because it’s a way that Susan G. Komen can partner with places of worship by providing them with the resources and education that they need. So members of the congregation can actually bring in these resources including breast health information, information about breast cancer, and these programs really equip those members to be more knowledgeable about taking action.
[00:18:00] So in order to sign up, you can actually go to Komen.org and search “Worship in Pink.” You can find the program there, and there is a way that you can sign up from that page. And so once you sign up, you can basically enroll in the program, and they offer a lot of things for you to do. So you can complete an online training.
[00:18:21] You can find our social media kits. So if you need messaging that you need to put out there through the church, you can find that as well. We also have a virtual celebration where you can meet other participants and then we just really encourage them to put on events. We help them as well. So we have a great program manager Teru Ross, who’s in charge of that. So she can really help to cultivate any type of event. So we’re always here to help out. So if anyone is interested in signing up, please visit Komen.org, type in Worship in Pink, and all the information is there for you.
[00:19:02] Adam Walker: I love that. Thank you for sharing those links, too. Alright, so Desiree, the events you’re holding in October officially kick off FCBC’s ongoing participation with Komen’s Worship in Pink program. So I’m curious, like, what is your vision for how FCBC can empower your congregation to take full and complete charge of their breast health?
[00:19:23] Desiree Elder: Oh, man, I think that for us, when we’re not, even though we’re based in Harlem, we have even a larger streaming community. And so what I would love to see is that on that day and through these ongoing conversations that we’re seeing people all over the world who are going and taking, you know, taking charge of their breast health where they’re sending us back the stories of yes, I did this.
[00:19:46] I know it can be utterly scary, you know, to kind of go and take that first leap. But what does it look like for there to be, you know, folks who will go to that doctor’s appointment with you, you know, from the church? What does it look like even we’ve been talking about, you know, how you build out like a health. ministry that can, you know, undergird and support these things ongoing. So my vision is that this kind of is a little spark that gets people really excited about continuing the conversation and doing what they’re needing to do to take action, not just in the month of October, but all year long.
[00:20:24] Adam Walker: Love that. I love that. All right. Well, Se’Nita back to you to wrap this up. If listeners are interested in becoming a Worship in Pink ambassad or and bringing this program to their own congregations, where can they go to receive that information?
[00:20:39] Se’Nita Harris: Yeah, you all can actually go to Komen.org, type in “worship in pink,” and there is a sign up link and you can sign up. You will be provided with all the information and resources that you need, including social media kits, also pamphlets, and things like that. We also have a great program, the program manager Tebu Ross, who can help you if you need to put together programs. So we’re so excited to kick off this partnership with FCBC. So that can be a perfect model. If you’re interested, you can tune in and see what we’re doing for NABPAM. That would be a perfect model for any church to participate.
[00:21:22] Adam Walker: Love that. Love that. So, go to the website, search for worship in pink, just to to summarize that. So Se’Nita, as always, thank you for the work that you’re doing for Komen. It’s so important and so, so valued. So appreciated. And Desiree I’m just, profoundly impressed with all of the things that your church is doing for the community. Thank you for that work. It’s amazing.
[00:21:46] Desiree Elder: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for having me.
[00:21:48] Se’Nita Harris: Thank you, Adam. Appreciate you so much.
[00:21:51] Adam Walker: Thank you for joining another episode of the Komen Health Equity Revolution podcast series. We will continue to galvanize the breast cancer community to support multiple populations experiencing breast health inequities to advance and achieve breast health equity — for all. To learn more about health equity at Komen, please visit https://komen.org/HealthEquity.
[00:22:08] This episode of the Real Pink Podcast was brought to you by AstraZeneca. AstraZeneca is leading a revolution in oncology with the ambition to provide cures for cancer in every form, following the science to understand cancer and all its complexities to discover, develop and deliver life-changing medicines to patients. Learn more at astrazeneca-us.com
[00:22:46] Thanks for listening to Real Pink, a weekly podcast by Susan G Komen. For more episodes, visit RealPink.Komen.org. And for more on breast cancer, visit Komen.org. Make sure to check out at Susan G Komen on social media. I’m your host, Adam. You can find me on Twitter @AJWalker or on my blog, adamjwalker.com.