When Stephanie Donald ’05 got a phone call from her father last spring, she was not prepared for the news he had to share. Her mother had been diagnosed with a malignant breast cancer tumor
“It was devastating,” Donald said. “Especially because she was the first person in my family ever diagnosed with breast cancer.”
Today, after undergoing months of treatment, Donald said, her mother is cancer-free.
But her mother was only able to complete the treatments and recover because she caught the disease in its early stages, Donald said.
“My mother’s is a story that speaks to early detection,” Donald said. “That’s the message I really want to send people.”
Donald is president of the Pi Alpha Chapter of the sorority Delta Sigma Theta, which held two open evening discussions on breast cancer this week at the Afro-American Cultural Center in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The events promoted early detection and treatment.
On Monday evening, Shirley Pinette of the Yale-New Haven Hospital Breast Center spoke to a group of about 25 students at the House, discussing new technology in place at Yale-New Haven and hospitals around the country designed to aid early cancer detection. Pinette also discussed how differences in access to health care cause African-American women to be disproportionately affected by breast cancer.
Donald said she hoped students attending the information forum would pass on what they learned.
“One in eight women will get breast cancer,” Donald said. “I want women to become more educated about the disease. It’s not enough to just know it yourself — you have to give that knowledge to others. And men can get breast cancer too.”
The sorority also held a discussion on Wednesday evening with guest Kelly Turner, a New Haven police office who founded the C.H.A.I.N. Fund — an organization that provides financial support to women undergoing breast cancer treatments — after being diagnosed with and surviving breast cancer herself.
Cecilia Oyediran ’08, who went to the Wednesday discussion, said she was surprised by Turner’s story.
“I hadn’t known how important it is to do self-inspections for breast cancer regularly,” Oyediran said. “I’m really happy there are groups at Yale making the effort to inform students about these health issues.”
Jennifer Fernandez ’06, a Pi Alpha sister, said she was moved by the discussion and felt it had personal significance for her.
“Last week, I lost my minister, an African-American woman, to breast cancer,” Fernandez said. “As a young woman, I think it is important for women to realize breast cancer is not a myth, and that it can happen to anyone. The message is to go out there and be safe, to get a mammogram.”
On campus, other events recognizing Breast Cancer Awareness Month include a 5K run Oct. 17, sponsored by radio station KC101.3, to raise money for the Yale-New Haven Breast Center, as well as two free presentations given by the Yale Health Plan and the YHP Obstetrics & Gynecology Department Oct. 20 and 27 in the President’s Room in Woolsey Hall.