Sunday, March 20, 2011


A very dear and beloved friend is battling breast cancer and is right now preparing for surgery. Her doctor has told her that the cancer is aggressive. African women contract breast cancer at a higher rate than white women. They have less chance of receiving treatment to deal with the cancer. Not surprisingly they die of this disease at higher rates than white women. My Sistah and her community have faith in the Most High, Jah Rastafari that she will not be one of the African women who succumb.

My dear Sistah friend has worked as African Heritage Instructor in the International Languages Program at the Toronto District School Board. That is how we first met many years ago. She is extremely hardworking and has a truly amazing collection of miniaturized objects that Africans have invented. Her library of African centred books, loving compiled and catalogued, is a thing of beauty. She is also an accomplished and tireless volunteer. Someone mentioned that her middle name should be "volunteer."

We held a gathering on Saturday night to be with our sister as she prepared to go to hospital. It was a truly spiritual experience. It is at such times that we realise how truly strong we are as African women. Things that would make other people’s knees buckle, make them give up, roll over and die. We rise to the challenge and we keep on living, keep on putting that one foot in front of the other but refuse to be defeated. Even when we are betrayed, stabbed in the back, we keep on going, refusing to give in to the sometimes mind numbing effects of spirit injury. It is an amazing strength we share as African women.

On Saturday night, we shared words of encouragement in a Sacred Sistahz Circle as we sent our Sistah off in the name of Jah Rastafari, the most high. We spent time with our children and grandchildren during the almost four hour communion of souls. It was a truly amazing, spiritually uplifting time and even strengthened me to deal with a dreadful situation in which I found myself the very next day, today, Sunday, March 20th, 2011 just a few hours before we observe the March 21, International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It was a loving and spiritual gathering where we shared love and spiritual blessings to help her and us be in a good space for her surgery on Monday. We shared food, special prayers, blessings, songs, poems, oils and herbal tea to honour the occasion. We were and are a family who may not be connected by blood but still a family.

We talked about the aggressive cancer that afflicts many African Canadian women and I found some information about a similar situation in the USA. Many African-American women don't fit the profile of the average American woman who gets breast cancer. For them, putting off the first mammogram until 50 — as recommended by a government task force — could put their life in danger. "One size doesn't fit all," says Lovell Jones, director of the Center for Research on Minority health at Houston's M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Jones says the guidelines recently put out by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force covered a broad segment of American women based on the data available. "Unfortunately," he says, "the data on African-Americans, Hispanics and to some extent Asian-Americans is limited."

So while the recommendations may be appropriate for the general population, he says, it could have a deleterious affect on African-American women who appear to have a higher risk of developing very deadly breast cancers early in life. The deadly breast cancers in African American women reminded Jones of the higher infant mortality rate in the African-American community, which has yet to be fully explained. Researchers have the same difficulty determining what combination of factors causes low birth weights and infant deaths in African-Americans. For example, the age of child birth with the lowest infant mortality rate in white women is about 30. In African American women it is around the ages of 16 to 19. Jones suspects the stress that African-Americans experience in this society is contributing to premature aging. It is not a popular theory, but even after adjustments are made for education, poverty and other factors, infant mortality remains high.

My Sistah friend was born on the Caribbean island of Trinidad but grew up in Canada; however, we are African wherever we live and suffer the same kinds of oppression and stress. As my Sistah friend prepares to undergo surgery on Monday, March 21, I pray for a successful surgery and speedy recovery. I am including on my blog two inspirational songs sung brilliantly and touchingly by a man who like my Sistah friend was born in Trinidad and grew up in Canada. Pastor Wintley Augustus Phipps born January 7, 1955 in Trinidad is truly amazing as he explains the history and sings Amazing Grace. I have also included It is well with my soul.

For my Sistah, I hope you read this and feel comforted, hopeful, loved and strengthened. In the Name of the Most High; Jah Rastafari!

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