LANDOVER – According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States. Millions of women are surviving the disease thanks, in part, to early detection and improvements in treatment, but sometimes they might feel like giving up the good fight. Thankfully, Supporting Our Sisters International (SOSI) […]
LANDOVER – According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States.
Millions of women are surviving the disease thanks, in part, to early detection and improvements in treatment, but sometimes they might feel like giving up the good fight. Thankfully, Supporting Our Sisters International (SOSI) has taken on the fight against breast cancer and refuses to let any survivor go through the process alone.
The American Cancer Society has previously advised women to start getting mammograms at the age of 40, but their new guidelines suggest women undergo annual mammograms at the age of 45 instead.
“As an advocate for all things happening in the breast cancer community, to hear they changed the guidelines, we don’t want women to be focused on the number,” said Madeline Long-Gill, president and founder of SOSI. “I started getting mammograms at the age of 40 because my mother-in-law lost her battle at 54.”
It was then Long-Gill began volunteering with the Susen G. Komen foundation from 1999-2012, before her own diagnosis.
In 2013, she founded the Prince George’s County chapter of SOSI as a survivorship organization. The organization is dedicated to saving lives by going beyond breast cancer awareness to empower, educate and inspire women around the world. SOSI is committed to improving care and services for the minority and under-served the community.
“A lot of people aren’t happy about the change of age for when a woman should get a mammogram. There’s a lot of uproar,” said SOSI support group facilitator Dawn Smith. “We as survivors aren’t happy and I feel as though most of the people who make those decisions haven’t gone through it. They don’t know that we are meeting women in their 20’s and 30’s who are in stage 4. I met a woman who is 32 and on her second cancer.”
According to the American Cancer Society, about 1-in-8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. In 2013-2014, SOSI reached 10,030 people in the Maryland, D.C. and Virginia area with a message of health, hope, healing and quality care for survivors and supporters of breast cancer.
“You are telling women to wait until 45 because there’s no use for it. No, that’s easier said than done when you haven’t been affected,” Smith said. “Early detection saves lives.”
The organization’s programs include the SOSI Support & Networking Group, the Let’s Stay Together Program: Bosom Buddies, and Real Men Wear Pink/Black Program Survivor Support Group.
“We encourage survivors to know their family history and find out if people in their family had it. We want to help prevent breast cancer, so we also tell women to reduce the amount of alcohol consumption because that is also a contributor to breast cancer,” Long-Gill said. “If we can get women being a little more conscience of what they are eating and moving around 30 minutes a day, then they can greatly reduce the chance of getting breast cancer.”
In 1995, Long-Gill’s mother-in-law, Carolyn L. Gill, passed away from complications related to breast cancer. In 2011, Long-Gill’s mother Josephine Long and Aunt Mary Gabourel were also diagnosed with breast cancer. She describes it as one of the most difficult things she’s gone through, especially while going through her own diagnosis.
“My mother is the reason I fight so hard for women, because when she received her diagnosis she checked out and to her, breast cancer was a death sentence. But she is now in charge of outreach for this organization so I have seen this organization work miracles,” Long-Gill said.
Last Saturday, Long-Gill was recognized by the National Congress of Black Women, Prince George’s County chapter, as a phenomenal woman for the work she does in Prince George’s County to raise awareness of various causes.
SOSI has touched many women, especially those currently going through treatments.
“They don’t have the same level of energy and some are even suffering post traumatic stress disorder after being focused on their diagnosis,” said Long-Gill. “We have gone door to door giving out information about breast health in the community and hold forums or panels to encourage breast cancer survivors.”
On Oct. 31, SOSI is doing a door-to-door health walk in Oxon Hill beginning at 9 a.m., and then holding a breast cancer information forum. They joined forces with survivors, family, friends, healthcare providers, researchers, community stakeholders, faith-based communities, and national organizations to create informative change within the breast cancer movement.
“We want to make this global and continue to make more people aware. I pray there is a cure, but until there is a cure, there is SOSI,” Smith said. “Yes, they celebrate breast awareness during the month of October, but we live this 24-7. We don’t get to shut it off on Nov. 1.”