Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Volunteers join fight against breast cancer

By Charity Bell-Hosey / Selma Times – Journal

Sherri James’ daughter, Andria, dealt the pain of knowing her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago by writing an essay for her Selma High School English class, &uot;Everything Is Done for a Reason.&uot;

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Ironically, the teacher whose class it was written for, Gayle Edwards Okeke, died a little more than a week ago from breast cancer.

James and Betty O’Hara, another local survivor, are volunteers with the American Cancer Society’s Reach to Recovery visitation program, which provides support and information for women with breast cancer.

Not all persons afflicted with breast cancer survive. But trying to increase the number of women who do is what motivates James and O’Hara.

Support is a big part of the acceptance and healing process. O’Hara found that out 39 years ago after her first brush with breast cancer, which resurfaced 20 years later.

James can sympathize. She calls the day she learned she had breast cancer &uot;a day I shall never forget.&uot;

James and O’Hara first learned they were at risk after performing self-examinations. Both their mothers had also been diagnosed with breast cancer.

They never thought it could happen to them.

But it did.

James said she never for a minute let her fear of having breast cancer focus her thoughts toward dying.

O’Hara agreed, adding that family support was another reason for her survival.

Years have passed, and both O’Hara and James have made it their business to beat breast cancer and help others like them get over the trauma of finding out one have breast cancer.

Time and time again, they project the message of awareness and prevention that they say are key to beating the disease.

She should know because she found both of her lumps that way. &uot;And no one over 40 should ignore the fact that it’s possible.&uot;

Now, neither O’Hara or James can imagine their life without check-ups. &uot;I never missed a mammogram appointment.&uot; O’Hara said.

And neither has James.