Forum Addresses Health Wellness Issues with Black women

Forum Addresses Health Wellness Issues with Black women – Over the weekend, women of color in St. Petersburg shared their experiences with breast cancer, domestic violence and mental health.

The program, called “Living Beyond Our Scars,” had speakers who had lived through some of the most challenging issues anyone could face and prevail.

One woman in particular spoke about her battle with cancer.

“People are counting on you to fight,” said Kerri Thompkins-Ayaka to the audience. “I’ve always been strong willed, never knowing why. I just had that strength in me.”

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But she never knew how much that inner strength would be tested until she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019.

“The lump in my breast was not benign,” said Thompkins-Ayaka. “But initially they said it was. It had not traveled to my breast. It was in my lymph nodes.”

And if fighting breast cancer wasn’t enough, Thompkins-Ayaka also had to deal with a benign tumor on her brain.

That’s why organizers say having women talk about their journey was a big part of the gathering Sunday.

“This event was designed to create a safe space so that we can talk about the things that impact us the most especially during this time of year,” said event host Sharlene Emmanuel Edwards. “Breast cancer, domestic violence and mental wellness impact Black women at a disproportionate rate than others in the community and we really wanted to create an afternoon of just healing, talking and sharing stories that can help us move forward and learn.”

According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, it’s estimated that 43,000 women will die from breast cancer this year in the United States. Black women are 40% more likely to die than white women and 30% more likely than Hispanic women.

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Yet Thompkins-Ayaka refuses to be a statistic.

“How was I gonna get through this? It wasn’t a matter of why. For me it was how. Day by day,” she said.

During those days Thompkins-Ayaka earned her second master’s degree, and at age 61 she says there’s so much more left for her to do.

“It gets tiresome some days I’m just tired,” Thompkins-Ayaka said. “But you still have to push and you have to make a decision ‘OK, I wanna live.’”