Faces of Courage: Women of Color Cancer Camp Builds Bridges

Faces of Courage Women of Color Camp

“I shared with others my experience and what I have learned. Faces of Courage has inspired me to give back every opportunity that I have. You never know what a person is going through.”

– Sharon R., cancer survivor and camp attendee

Let’s say you have recurring abdominal pain. What do you do? You may mention it to loved ones and seek care. Or, you may stay silent and be stoic — for days or even months. 

Your family and upbringing teach and condition you how to react to situations, including your health care and wellness. Your thinking is also shaped and impacted by your gender, race, ethnicity, culture, and socioeconomic background.

For some people, there may be more fear, taboo, or resistance when it comes to talking about and managing health problems. For example, from Argentina to Japan, the cultural mindsets and methods of stress management and self-care vary widely. Therefore, it is easy to imagine that this is also the case for health care and treating cancer.

This is where Faces of Courage steps in to help. A nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and GuideStar Platinum charity, Faces of Courage offers life-enriching experiences to kids, women, men, and families touched by cancer and blood disorders. They are also a leader in minority outreach and education and were the first in the U.S. to create a weekend camp for minority women cancer patients and survivors. 

To help level the playing field of healing — at least for a weekend, Faces of Courage hosts an annual Women of Color Cancer Camp. It unites women for a weekend retreat, where they have the opportunity to share the joys of life, celebrate survival, and bond under the many-colored ribbons of cancer.

Peggie Sherry, Faces of Courage Founder/CEO, said, “We started the Women of Color Cancer Camp 15 years ago because we noticed the women in that community were not signing up for our camps. African Americans have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial and ethnic group in the U.S. for most cancers. And, there is an inequality in health care that further creates a gap for women of color.” 

The American Medical Association reports, “Recent studies have shown that despite the improvements in the overall health of the country, racial and ethnic minorities experience a lower quality of health care — they are less likely to receive routine medical care and face higher rates of morbidity and mortality than nonminorities.”

They, along with the American Cancer Society, are working to raise awareness of the disparities, causes, and solutions. In a statement, Dr. Otis W. Brawley, MD, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, said, “Ultimately, disparities mean people die when they don’t need to die.”

It has also been found that while health care disparities affect those who face the disparities, it also limits improvements in the overall quality of health care for the broader population and results in unnecessary costs. So, working to improve the inequality and breaking down the barriers that different genders, races, ethnicities, and cultures have about health care and cancer treatment helps everyone.

“When I became involved with Faces of Courage, I learned about the issues women of color have within their own communities — not receiving emotional support, not admitting they are sick, having to be strong, not seeking or accepting support during treatment — and the camp is a step toward helping them overcome some of these challenges,” said Starlett Massey, founding shareholder of MLG and Faces of Courage board member.

“The disparities in health care, cancer treatment and pain management that people of color also face — having their pain minimized, being misdiagnosed, not having access to the same treatment — further reinforce those fears and mindsets.”

Cancer Camp Celebrates Courage, Creating Hope and Connection

Meet the faces (and words) of courage shared by the Women of Color Cancer Camp attendees.

“It was amazing to be around women who truly knew what I was going through and how I feel. We laughed, we learned, we cried, we danced! Truly amazing!” 

“I wasn’t offered a shot to help with my low white count. When I asked my oncologist about it, she said that most insurance does not pay for it, but she didn’t check. I also asked about a clinical trial and was told that due to my age, there was not one. I found two clinical trials and participated on my own.”

“It is nice to know people care because this disease can be so lonely. Thank you for the hard work and to the sponsors. The hairdressers were great. A nice surprise!”

“This camp reminded me of the beauty in this world. I met so many amazing women, both survivors and volunteers, who supported and nurtured the women attending. Thank you for a wonderful experience.”

Massey Law Group is proud to be a charitable partner of Faces of Courage. To learn more, discover the ways you can make a difference, from volunteering to pledging a camper.

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