2016 LIVE! Summit Educates, Supports, Empowers; Spreads Message in the African-American Community about Early Detection and Treatment for Breast Cancer

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The second-annual LIVE! breast cancer summit cosponsored by UTHSC drew more than 700 women earlier this month.

Alice Foxx and her daughter, Tabitha Foxx, say they are so close that where one goes, you’ll find the other. So when Alice got an email about the 2016 LIVE! breast cancer summit for African-American women, she shared it with Tabitha.

Shortly after 8 a.m. on Feb. 6, the two women were having breakfast and coffee in the G. E. Patterson Family Life Youth Center of the Temple of Deliverance C.O.G.I.C. downtown, as this year’s summit got underway.

Alice Foxx and her daughter, Tabitha Foxx

Both women are breast cancer survivors. Alice, 60, has twice battled the disease. Tabitha, 41, once. Both had genetic testing and found they have the BRCA1 gene mutation, which increases their risk of breast cancer. They are thankful and proud survivors, and were thrilled to join the more than 700 women who had gathered that Saturday morning to educate, encourage and support each other in the fight against breast cancer in the African-American community.

“We’ve been through a lot,” Tabitha said. “When I heard about it, I told people, ‘I bleed pink.’ I welcome any opportunity to come out and support anything that has to do with breast cancer.”

From the looks of the crowd at the event, plenty of other women, and a few men, feel the same way.

The LIVE! breast cancer summit was initiated in 2015, when the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) convened the LIVE! Breast Cancer Awareness and Action Coalition. The coalition brought together grassroots health care and community organizations that are working to battle breast cancer in the Memphis-area African-American community, which historically has had the highest mortality rate from the disease in the United States.

The first LIVE! summit, officially titled “Live! African-American Women Surviving Breast Cancer through Education, Early Detection, Screening and Treatment,” was designed to unite, support and empower African-American women to take charge of their breast health. The event, an outgrowth of UTHSC’s commitment to improve community health in Memphis and the region, drew more than 500 women to campus to learn about the importance of early detection and action, as well as about resources available and advances in treatment. The summit also emerged as a way for survivors to celebrate their accomplishment and support each other.

UTHSC was joined by Baptist Cancer Center and West Cancer Center as the presenting sponsors for the second LIVE! summit earlier this month. The focus this year was education, with informative small-group sessions that addressed topics including prevention and early detection, overcoming fear, accessing services in the community, and healthy living. Mammograms were also available.

Former TV personality and breast cancer survivor Pam McKelvy focused her keynote address on how her faith has carried her through her cancer journey. She advised action in the face of the disease, “so that African-American women will not perish at the high rates.” And she urged the women in the room to reach out to others to be screened and treated, “because what we do is we wait, we ignore, we’re not proactive.”

Gustavo Miranda-Carboni, PhD, assistant professor in the Division of Hematology and Oncology in the College of Medicine at UTHSC, led the university’s participation in the event. In opening remarks, he reminded the women that “there is a concerted effort from all the coalition members — from Baptist, from the West Cancer Center, from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center — and  we are here to fight for you. If each of you can go out and touch a sister, a niece, a daughter, a relative, get them informed, our reach will be even greater.”

Alice and Tabitha Foxx  said they are happy to do that. Tabitha is starting a support group for breast cancer survivors called, “Warrior Sisters, Sisters for Life.”

“We just try to help other women going through this by telling our story,” she said.

The third annual LIVE! summit is set for Feb. 4, 2017.