Street Smarts Breast Cancer Awareness Program
Street Smarts is an innovative breast cancer education program that I recently devised to reach women who are homeless and who lack the self confidence and/or resources to identify their risk for disease and act on their own behalf. After working with homeless cancer survivors, I came to recognize that a lack of knowledge about disease and proper treatment isn’t the sole problem. Many women who have made their lives on the street feel unworthy. They’ve been used and abused, histories that weaken the drive to take care of themselves or value their own health.
In the video interview that I did for AACR (see above), I talked about the need for systematic change. Behind every feel-good story about one person helping another (for instance, me stepping up to buy a few groceries for Edwina or arranging to accompany her to the doctor), there’s a much wider gap. How we look at populations of people seemingly unlike us, how they look at themselves and how they treat themselves as a result–these are the starting points for making a significant and sustainable difference. I’ve been fortunate enough to gain support from the North Central Alabama Susan G. Komen for the Cure for the program. Their fantastic staff has agreed to partner with me to get Street Smarts up and running!
Street Smarts has two central goals: 1) to influence how women perceive their bodies, and 2) to provide health advice, specifically related to breast health and breast cancer awareness, on their own terms. Edwina Sanders and Lisa Brown, both stage 4 breast cancer survivors who have survived years of homelessness, offered their thoughts as part of a recent focus group. Both ladies provided excellent suggestions for the kinds of pampering services the community might be most receptive to and how best to convey a message of health and self care.
I just got news that CNN’s Headline News (HLN) will be covering the launch of the event in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, here’s the press release distributed by Komen to volunteers and/or folks willing to provide supplies for the first Street Smarts event:
Street Smarts is an innovative breast cancer awareness program targeting members of Birmingham’s homeless community. Drawing on the experiences and input of women who are currently living with advanced breast cancer while making their homes on the street, the devised program has two specific objectives: 1) to address each woman’s self and body image, often damaged from years of sexual, physical and emotional abuse, and 2) to deliver concise, realistic messages about breast cancer risk reduction, screening, and treatment options.
Participants in Street Smarts will gather in a safe space for lunch, select spa services, and an educational session tailored to their unique perspective. At the end of the event, each participant will receive a tote bag bearing a breast cancer awareness slogan devised by women in the homeless community and holding a number of toiletry products to extend the message about self care.
Street Smarts was created by Dr. Cynthia Ryan, an English professor at UAB who has worked closely with this community for the past year and a half. Cynthia is also a two-time survivor of breast cancer who writes extensively about the experience of survivorship for academic and popular publications. She may be reached at email@example.com or (205) 934-8600.
Toiletry products needed for 150 women:
* bar soap
* baby powder
* toothbrush and toothpaste
* hand/body lotion
* sample-size perfumes
* baby wipes
* sanitary napkins
* travel-size kleenex
* fruit (an apple or orange per bag)
* small packet of nuts
* bottle of water