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From a cancer survivor who cleans up trash and turns it into artwork to the inaugural National Black Family Cancer Awareness week, here’s what’s happening in the cancer landscape this week.
The US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Oncology Center of Excellence (OCE) recently announced its first ever National Black Family Cancer Awareness Week (NBFCAW). The designated week will occur from June 17 to June 23 this year.
During NBFCAW, the FDA’s social media platforms will share information related to the initiative, while health care centers, non-profits and community organizations raise awareness about the impact of cancer on Black families.
“Research has shown that cancer awareness can help lower cancer mortality rates and increase life expectancy for all racial and ethnic groups, including Black Americans,” the FDA wrote.
The awareness week designated hashtag is “#BlackFamCan.”
Cindy Small, of New Orleans, survived both cancer and losing her home due to Hurricane Katrina. After the hurricane, Small also lost her job and all of the important paperwork and belongings in her home.
“I felt like a gypsy,” she told Alabama Local News. “I felt like a refugee.”
After she found a new home, job and sense of peace, Small was diagnosed with cancer in 2015. She kept pushing, never forgetting that she came from a family with Holocaust survivors. However, her cancer experience did cause depression, which she dealt with through art therapy. As a long-time junk collector, she walks around town cleaning up nuts, bolts and bottle caps.
“Junk has no expiration date,” Small said. “You can use it when you find it.”
Small repurposes the junk items into sculptures, robots and wall hangings to sell on Etsy through her business, Krewe of Oddities. She also writes about her art and her work has been featured on local radio stations, newspapers and magazines.
Actress Brooke Shields was diagnosed with solar keratosis (precancerous cells caused by long-term exposure to UV rays) at an annual routine check-up.
Her doctor had to remove cells from her lips twice to determine the diagnosis and was told that if left untreated, it would turn into skin cancer.
“To tell the truth, I learned much later about the importance of annual check-ups,” Shields wrote on ELLE.com. “I am from an era where we would put skin oil on our skin and bake in the sun. I come from a generation that was never educated on the seriousness of skin cancer.”
During her childhood and young adulthood, Shields rarely applied sunscreen, in hopes of getting a “sun-kissed look,” thinking she would never get cancer because she kept her skin clean and hydrated.
“I mean, the most shocking thing to me about the diagnosis was that it was resulting possibly 40 years later,” she said. “So the damage that I had done then that I thought I was invincible to is affecting me now. I consider myself lucky.”
Now, Shields never skips out on sunscreen and strictly encourages her children to do the same, regardless of whether it’s sunny or what season it is.
Anna Labella, 11, was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma in 2019. Her cancer recently returned in March and is not responding to treatment after tumors progressed to her skull.
Labella began making TikTok videos to pass the time in isolation, but online bullies started making fun of her for not having hair, which she lost during chemotherapy.
Her mother, Jessica Labella, decided to plan a surprise for her to brighten her mood. She took Anna for a walk around the hospital, surprising her with the sight of hundreds of people from her hometown of Ilion, New York, who had gathered outside the hospital to see her.
Members of Fight All Monsters, a non-profit organization for families with kids fighting childhood cancer, along with friends, family, community members and even teachers cheered and held up signs with words of encouragement for Labella.
“It was awesome because I haven’t been able to see my friends and my family a lot,” she told YourBasin.
Labella’s family said that all of the love and support has really made a difference for her.
“Thank you so much. We love every single one of you and we appreciate all your support. What the community does for Anna is amazing and it really pushes her to fight,” said Jessica Labella.
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