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Tribal member’s breast cancer message: ‘Get your mammogram, do your self-check, catch it early’

Lorraine Posada, left, and daughter Lindsey Posada greet Lenore Roberts at the Immokalee drive thru breast cancer awareness event Oct. 19. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

Lorraine Posada, who has no history of breast cancer in her family, exercises regularly, eats well and isn’t overweight, was diagnosed at age 43 with breast cancer. The surprising and somber news came Feb. 27, 2020, after getting her annual mammogram.

Posada didn’t find a lump through self exams and her doctor couldn’t feel anything either. Posada didn’t think she was at risk.

“Of course you cry, you cry a lot,” she said about her reaction to the diagnoses. “You automatically think it’s a death sentence. All you can think is I have cancer.”

Fortunately, the cancer was found early enough to treat. Posada’s doctor told her she was lucky, the cancer was stage zero.

Posing in pink are April Simmons, Michael Simmons and Zarianna Simmons. (Courtesy photo)

After a double mastectomy and a year since the last of her four surgeries, Posada’s message to women is simple.

“I want people to know I am here because I found it early,” she said. “Get your mammogram, do your self-check, catch it early.”

Posada’s message is the same advice that was stressed throughout Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. Getting the word out has been especially critical during the pandemic as mammograms dropped drastically. From January to June in 2020, breast cancer screenings among Native women decreased by 98%, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Indigenous Pink Day was Oct. 21, but tribal members didn’t wait for that day to focus on the importance of early detection and screening. Community walks – virtual and together in small family groups – and drive thru educational events served to increase awareness of the disease, which affects one in eight women in their lifetime.

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in all women after skin cancer. Early detection is crucial to surviving it. Native American women have the lowest incidence based on race and ethnicity, according to the CDC. White women have the highest rate of breast cancer followed by Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander and American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) women.

Mike Cantu, Hollywood Culture language office
coordinator. (Photo Damon Scott)

However, a 2014 study published in the American Journal of Public Health cited breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer mortality in AI/AN women. Mammograms play an important role in detection. The American Indian Cancer Foundation guidelines recommend annual mammogram screenings begin between age 40-44 and should be done annually between age 45-54 and every two years after age 55.

Increased risks include genetics, gender, family history, breast density and age. However, breast cancer may strike women with or without these risk factors. Steps which may help avoid breast cancer include breastfeeding, weight control, regular mammograms, exercise, limited alcohol use and regular breast exams.

Hollywood held a drive thru event Oct. 14 with educational information, T-shirts and a light lunch. Immokalee aimed to spread awareness during a community walk Oct. 18. Tampa held a virtual walk Oct. 19; Brighton had theirs Oct. 21.

In Tampa, tribal members walked on their own or in family groups.

“Though we could not be all together to walk, it did not stop the Tampa community from dressing up and going all out,” wrote Korin Deitch, health nutritionist and educator, in an email. “We are supporting the fighters, admiring the survivors, honoring the taken and never, ever giving up hope.”

Nancy Frank, an 18-year breast cancer survivor, gathers with family members for the Tampa community’s virtual walk. From left are Kevin Frank, Aaron Frank (with little girl), Nancy Frank, Connie Osceola, Nigel Osceola, Dominic Osceola, Dorian Osceola, Amari Osceola and Laurie Billie. (Courtesy photo)
Immokalee held its breast cancer awareness walk Oct. 18. From left are Mary Lou Alvarado, Gary McInturff, Dylan Garcia, Adrian Garcia, Linda Beletso, Lorraine Posada, Cassandra Jimmie and Elsa Zamora. (Courtesy photo)
At the Hollywood event are, from left, Francine Osceola, community adviser at the Hollywood Council Office, Kenny Tommie of We Do Recover (WDR), Tomie Motlow, executive assistant at the Hollywood Council Office, Jay Holata of WDR, Charlie Tiger of WDR and Billie Tiger of WDR. (Photo Damon Scott)
Mercedes Osceola, seated, and Madeline Osceola at the Hollywood event. (Photo Damon Scott)
Linda Henry participated in the Tampa community’s virtual walk Oct. 19. (Courtesy photo)
Lauren Goas with Integrative Health, standing, and Valerie Frank of Hollywood Culture help out in one of the booths. (Photo Damon Scott)
This colorful group showed their awareness of breast cancer during the Tampa virtual walk. The walkers include Jeremiah Santiago, Katie Smith, Tracie Mackenzie, Isabella Santiago and Randy Santiago. (Courtesy photo)
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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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