Survivors share stories at MCHC’s Breast Health Night

Shown at MCHC’s Breast Health Night: (l-r) Julet Queensborough, Breast Health Navigator MCHC; Jordina Shanks, Chief Operating Officer MCHC; Elizabeth Thomas, Clinical Operations Assistant MCHC; Alberta  Guess, survivor; Patricia Graham, survivor; Dr. Naomi Ko, BUSOM; Tarma Johnson, FNP-BC, Director Clinical Health Services MCHC; and Jieka Guerrier, Breast Health Navigator.  Photo courtesy MCHC

The Mattapan Community Health Center’s conference room was transformed into a sea of various shades of pink on Thurs., Oct. 24, for the observation of Breast Cancer Awareness month. The center’s Breast Health Night brought together cancer survivors, caregivers, friends, family, community members, and affiliates from Boston Medical Center, including keynote speaker Naomi Ko, MD, of Boston University’s School of Medicine, to learn about breast cancer, and to celebrate survivorship.

The more than 60 people in attendance listened as Dr. Ko explained what breast cancer, talked about its various stages, risk factors, and the appropriate age, especially for black women, to start screening. The doctor also shared this alarming statistic, which seemed to surprise many in the audience: African-American women die from breast cancer at higher rates than Caucasian women. Social, economic, and cultural factors are the main reasons why this is occurring.

During the session, 82-year-old Alberta Guess, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 65, shared her journey, determination, and will to survive. She praised the efforts of the team of doctors and caregivers who stood by her throughout that time.

Fellow survivor Patricia Graham, who had already battled other forms of cancer and was a caregiver to siblings who succumbed to the disease, also spoke about her bout with the disease. She offered high praise to Breast Health Navigators, Julet Queensborough, and Jieka Guerrier, who worked tirelessly to bring this event to fruition and who on a daily basis serve as more than just a point of contact at the health center and hosts for the evening.

MCHC offers mammography screenings weekly in partnership with Boston Medical Center, with Mary Stone serving as the radiology technologist. Since January 2019, the health center has done almost 800 mammograms.

The Breast Health event was attended by various members of the MCHC staff that included doctors, nurses, practitioners and senior executive team members.

Tarma Johnson, the director of Clinical Health Services, offered the welcoming acknowledgement and Jordina Shanks, the center’s new chief operating officer, choked up as she thanked everyone for a night of inspiration.

To the survivors, she said, “you embody strength, you give each one of us hope, thank you for sharing your stories.”

Elizabeth Thomas is the clinical operations assistant at MCHC. For more information or to schedule a mammogram, contact Mattapan Community Health Center at 617-898-9076.