Down South

I’ve had some time to sit and reflect on the four women from a bit further South that I interviewed and David photographed for The Alabama Project Traveling Exhibit. It’s hard to put into words some of the disparities we observed and to acknowledge that there are folks in America living a life of poverty more often associated with the developing world.

At this point, I am working through my notes to document in writing the richness of each woman’s life, the warmth and tensions apparent within her family, and her strategies for moving beyond breast cancer amid a slate of other life struggles: how to pay a pile of medical bills when there’s no money coming in, how to keep moving ahead one day at a time while worrying about the results of an impending bone scan, how to remain strong so that those depending on you–children and grandchildren, siblings and parents–can have hope.

For now, I’m offering just a few of the photos I snapped of one woman, Essie Westbrook, from Marengo County. Essie now lives in the projects in Dixon Mills, AL, and she was fortunate to be connected to a health care assistance program run by UAB, The Deep South Network for Cancer Control, when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 and with a recurrence in 2013. Her sister, Arleva, was already volunteering with the group as was another sister, Luvenia. Essie is now also a community health educator, talking to other women at her church and in her community about the importance of early detection and finding the resources needed to heal.

Essie Westbrook, standing in front of the trailer where she lived when diagnosed with breast cancer.

Essie Westbrook, standing in front of the trailer where she lived when diagnosed with breast cancer.

Some of Essie's family gathered together on July 4.

Some of Essie’s family gathered together on July 4.

Arleva's house, standing next door to Essie's trailer on the same property their parents lived on.

Arleva’s house, standing next door to Essie’s trailer on the same property their parents lived on.

Ethan Grayson, 2, the youngest of Essie's grandchildren.

Ethan Grayson, 2, the youngest of Essie’s grandchildren.

Essie's granddaughter, Taleei Green, 4, on left, with her cousin and Arleva's granddaughter

Essie’s granddaughter, Taleei Green, 4, on left, with her cousin and Arleva’s granddaughter.

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