Breast cancer event this weekend

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Alice Norris, a six-year cancer survivor, said being diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time a month ago was devastating at first.

Norris will have surgery next month to remove the cancer.

“I know that I will make it and be able to beat this,” she said.

Norris, an Oak Park resident who lived in Austin for over 20 years, hopes fellow West Siders will join her in the Sisters Network annual Gift for Life Block Walk Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at South Shore Hospital, 8012 S. Crandon Ave.

She credits Sisters Network, a breast cancer survivorship organization for African-American women in Chicago and around the U.S., with helping her carry on after two shattering diagnoses.

Norris found the organization online when she was fighting cancer the first time in 2008. She said Sisters Network immediately connected her with an African0American woman who had an almost identical journey.

“It’s someone of my color that knows what I’m going through.”

Norris said emotional support is very important in beating cancer. She said the testimonies she’s heard at Sisters Network meetings from women who have survived over 30 years give her hope.

Sisters Network not only promotes cancer support and education but also the importance of early detection. The group’s website includes a how-to page for self-exams.

It also lists several local hospitals that offer free or low-cost mammograms to those who qualify. Loretto Hospital, 645 S. Central Ave, is included on that list.

Early detection can save lives, according to Sisters Network.

Lakenia Robinson, public relations manager for Sister Network of Chicago, is a 10-year, two-time breast cancer survivor. She said a self-exam saved her life twice.

Robinson had her first diagnosis at age 39 when she discovered a lump in the center of her left armpit.

Most doctors don’t recommend mammograms until women reach age 40. That’s why it’s so important that all women do monthly self-exams, she said.

“There are women much younger than 40 getting breast cancer. If I had waited until 40, I probably wouldn’t be here right now.”

Robinson said the mortality rate of breast cancer is higher in African American women than Caucasians because of the fear of not being able to afford treatment and the lack of awareness in the black community.

“Our goal is to bring local and national attention and knowledge to our people,” she said.

It’s not too late to register for Saturday’s Gift for Life Block Walk; on-site registration is $25. There will also be a health fair that includes blood pressure checks, diabetes screenings and other services.

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