Breast cancer knows no race or nationality. But Thursday night in St. Joseph it was only referred to as cancer de seno.
More than 50 women attended the YWCA's first Spanish-only event, Celebracion Rosa, in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Hispanic women were invited only if they had their mammogram this year, said Kendal Evans, bilingual coordinator at the YWCA and organizer of Thursday's event.
As a native Spanish speaker, Ms. Evans reaches out to Hispanic women in St. Joseph to encourage them to get preventative screenings for breast cancer and other diseases. Thursday's Celebracion Rosa is a way to reward these women for taking charge of their health.
It's also a way, Ms. Evans said, for Spanish speakers to find other Hispanic women in the community.
"I always hear 'I don't have any friends, I'm the only one here,'" she said of the women she helps. "But there are other Hispanics here, they are not the only ones."
Claudia Tapia de Dominguez, a breast cancer survivor and Thursday's guest speaker, focused her speech on the difference between breast cancer that is caught early through mammograms, as opposed to later, when the tumor is typically more life-threatening.
She knows the difference, she said, because her sister, who had never had a mammogram before being diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago, had more complications and a much longer recovery. Ms. Tapia de Dominguez's tumor, however, was removed weeks after it was found in January 2012 -- and she is considered a survivor today.
"I made my mammograms every year, and then the doctor can catch it on time," she said.
Ms. Tapia de Dominguez was able to opt to remove only the glands in both breasts; her sister had to remove her whole breast. As a result of her surgery, Ms. Tapia de Dominguez only lost four lymph nodes; her sister lost all of them. And as a preventative measure, Ms. Tapia de Dominguez was able to have 28 sessions of radiation; her sister was forced to go through chemotherapy.
In addition, another one of Ms. Tapia de Dominguez's sisters died from breast cancer. She had never had a mammogram.
"That is a big difference," she said. "I'm not going to tell you it was easy, it was hard. But I'm here. And I'm working and everything."
Though Ms. Tapia de Dominguez was speaking to women who already know about and regularly get mammograms, the idea was for them to encourage other Hispanic women in the community to be proactive about their health, as well as tell them about the health resources that are available for Spanish speakers in St. Joseph.
Thursday's Celebracion Rosa was an extension of a similar YWCA event held last year, called Ladies' Night Out, but it was for both English and Spanish speaking women.
"This time it's only in Spanish, because we have more people every year, we help more Hispanics." Ms. Evans said.
There wasn't enough funding for the YWCA to host an event for Spanish speakers and another event for English speakers, but she said she hopes in the coming years that both events can be held annually.
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