‘Loving Yourself’ healthcare event an enlightening experience

It’s scary to find out you’ve not been taking proper care of yourself

Responsible, elegant, determined, intergenerational, promising, informative: These are a few adjectives to describe the “Loving Yourself” event held March 19 at Heritage Senior Center in North Minneapolis. The event was promoted as a Breast Cancer Awareness event for African and African American women sponsored by Neighborhood Healthsource and many other community participants such as the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, UCare, Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, and the African American Breast Cancer Alliance.

Approaching the venue, participants were greeted with the “Q”mmunity truck, a mobile health unit owned and operated by the Southside Community Health Services Inc. There was also a truck dedicated to providing mammography testing for women who were curious and willing.

These health checkpoints were available to visitors before stepping into the “meat and potatoes” of the event. Participants were enthusiastically welcomed at an information table with personalized nametags, recyclable bags, and other small “thank you for coming” sponsorship items.

Photo by Brandi D. Phillips
Photo by Brandi D. Phillips

The main floor of the Heritage Senior Center houses a YMCA that is dedicated to helping those seniors who live in the residential space of Heritage and the local community. The YMCA houses many fitness machines and resources to keep the blood of our elders 55 and over flowing and their hearts healthily pumping.

The second level of the “Loving Yourself” event was a location for vendors and sponsors. Tables for colon rectal cancer, how to give correct self-breast exams, eye problems and symptoms, Q Health Connections (general health clinic), and a massage therapist were just a few of the sponsor tables.

The morning was highlighted by a beautifully dedicated praise dancer, Naomi J. Johnson, dressed in a red praise gown adorned with a gold cross. Wenso Ashby, a one-man singing jazz band, was the event’s entertainment during lunch, which was a calming, networking, and motivating time in the day.

Nurse practitioner and keynote speaker Pam White moved many members of the event with her strong and compelling speech dedicated to helping others define their health legacy. Terry Simmons, a 47-year-old, mother of three, said, “Ms. White is very knowledgeable about breast cancer awareness and health. She really made me think about what example I am setting for myself and for my children.” Asked if she does regular self-breast exams, Terry replied, “No, but I know I need to, and I will start now!”

In order to go along with the flow of the program and support my own health, I personally made a point to stop at one of the self-breast check tables to feel one of the “chicken cutlet”-type rubbery fake breasts. These fake breasts had many small lumps in them (which I did not know at first), and my job was to feel the breast and find any lumps.

I began my cutlet check by moving my hands all around the breast in the motion that I thought was correct — at least that was what I had been taught. Right away, Carol Hardy, cancer survivor and CPR trainer, stopped me and said, “You are doing it wrong.” She demonstrated the correct way to do an exam, and it was then that I was able to feel many of those small lumps that were in the cutlet.

That experience alone made me feel like I had been putting myself in jeopardy for years. Firstly, I was not doing exams monthly, quarterly or semi-annually. Secondly, when I did do an exam, I was doing it wrong. Talk about scary. It was then that I decide to get a mammogram, no irregularities.

As a conference-goer, I found the event to be flawless in its presentation, diversity and dedication to intergenerational breast cancer awareness for African and African American women. Such awareness is critical to the survival of current and future generations of all cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds.

Monthly self-breast exams are an easy way to detect lumps and other concerns and to get early diagnosis and treatment. If you have a concern regarding lumps or any other breast concern, contact your medical practitioner immediately.