By Trone Dowd
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. In the last 20 years, breast cancer has become one of the leading causes of death in minority women. It remains the number one most fatal form of cancer in Hispanics and the second most fatal form of cancer in Black, South Pacific and Asian communities. Overall, it is the second most common cancer among women in the U.S.
Two local individuals, Delicia B. Davis, 30, from Jamaica and Shamel Lawrence, 30, from South Ozone Park, are doing as much as they can to spread the word and educate others on the impact cancer has had on their communities, and the minority community as a whole, through their own experiences.
Delicia B. Davis
Davis currently works for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation as a community liaison in Queens. She is also the author of the Dear Diary book series, which follows the many trials and tribulations of childhood bullying and the problems that can sprout out of such unfortunate circumstances. In addition to her work as an author and community liaison, Davis is very active in the community. She works with local organizations to spread the word on different causes all year long including the importance of cancer awareness. But Davis’ initial cross with cancer didn’t come from her activism. It instead came from a first hand experience with the deadly disease.
“When I was young, I was not as informed about breast cancer and even just health issues in general,” Davis said. “But I had the advantage of attending a program at Columbia University when I was a teenager.”
The program, called the Science and Technology Entry Program, or STEP, held a workshop one Saturday on ways to detect abnormalities in the body that could be potentially life threatening. The workshop included a crash course on how to properly check one’s self for these abnormalities, educating young girls on ways to prevent issues before they become serious.
“At the time I started to take heed and do self examinations on myself,” Davis said.
Davis applied all that she had learned at the workshop to herself and was shocked to discover that at just 15 years old, she had a lump in her breast. Doctors quickly determined that the lump, although not cancerous, had an extremely high chance of developing into something more serious within a very short period of time.
“It was a tumor,” Davis said. “It was something I could feel through my skin, it wasn’t that deep inside but it wasn’t something you could see.”
Luckily for Davis, she preemptively caught the growth and had it surgically removed within a year.
“I never thought that was something I had to worry about, but lo and behold, I did,” said Davis.
Davis’ own experience was a bit of an awakening for the young woman at that age. She quickly realized how crucial it is to teach women young and old how to be vigilant about checking for lumps and other potentially dangerous abnormalities in the body and that they can be the difference between life and death later on in life.
Almost a decade and a half later, Davis is now working to give that younger generation life tools that could potentially save a life. She works closely with her organization, the Dream Team Leaders. She describes the Dream Team Leaders as a “creative and leadership development group” that uses their platform to tackle issues within the community.
“We’re not about coming and saying things. We’re about doing things, getting our hands dirty and getting our feet walking,” she said.
She has teamed up and worked alongside several non-profit organizations over the years including the YMCA and their affiliated program Y-Roads, the Girl Scouts, Sheltering Arms, 100 Suits for 100 Men and the Long Island Jewish Medical Center educating people on breast cancer and medical awareness. She has even been a guest speaker at many different events including the Girls World Expo, an anti-violence and sports advocacy program for girls, age eight to 16.
“I find great pleasure in taking part in something that has a real meaning and has great impact on the community,” she said.
Lawrence has been a very active member in the Southeast Queens community. Born and raised in the area by his mother and grandmother, Lawrence is a veteran of the U.S. Army, which he served for eight years, and a former member of New York City law enforcement. While he’s always had the desire to pursue something that would help people, Lawrence recently found himself having to take time away from his work because of his own illness.
“I’m actually fighting a form of bone cancer,” Lawrence told the Queens Tribune. “It affects the muscles, the nerves of the body.”
Lawrence has not let his condition get in the way of working in other ways though. In fact Lawrence has made plenty of efforts in raising money towards breast cancer treatment and awareness. Last year, he helped organize a community dance that donated all proceeds towards breast cancer organizations. He also worked with a local chapter of the Boys Scouts to make cards for those battling the disease at Mount Sinai Hospital and New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. He doesn’t plan on stopping there either. In fact he’s looking to continue getting more people behind his efforts in 2015.
“This year I plan to go a little further with my work,” Lawrence said. “With my post with the American Legion, I would like to get them involved in any cause I can.”
Lawrence who serves as the youngest Vice Commander of in the history of the American Legion, works with several military and community activism organizations including his church, Rush Temple Methodist Church in Jamaica giving back to those in need. He often takes pictures of those he visits in hospitals all over New York City and pins them to the walls of these organizations to remind others not to forget the brave souls battling cancer every day.
As for his own efforts, Lawrence said that he’s trying to organize a fundraiser of some sort, either a dinner or a dance to help raise money to donate to breast cancer. He also said he plans to participate in the Flushing Meadow Park Breast Cancer Walk on Oct. 21.
Lawrence emphasized year round awareness as something for everyone to keep in mind. In fact, he works with his organizations to provide educational courses for people at risk of cancer and other diseases. Just this past July, Lawrence worked to get Mount Sinai Hospital out to Rush Temple to give free screenings and mammograms to those who need it.
Lawrence pointed out that treating breast cancer is just one part of the disease that needs to be addressed.
“There’s other issues that need to be introduced and address in the community. For example, my doctor diagnosed me with depression. To me, I didn’t think that was an actual illness until I was diagnosed with it about two weeks ago.”
“What I’m dealing with right now is not easy to deal with. It does so much to the body, you’d kind of be amazed by it. Being in pain and having to rely on high doses of medication to get by day by day, it gets tough. But the way I look at it, what keeps me going is my love for helping the community, my son and my wife,” Lawrence said with a smile. “It’s a fight and a struggle but they keep me going and keep me moving.”
Lawrence told the Queens Tribune that it is important for everyone to pay attention to their bodies and take measures towards staying healthy.
“Take care of your body,” he pleaded. “Your body talks to you. When you’re feeling that pain or you feel something isn’t right, don’t wait. Go to the doctor and get it checked out. That goes for males and females. Pay attention to your body because once your health is gone, that’s it.”
Reach Trone Dowd at (718)357-7400 ext.123, firstname.lastname@example.org or @theloniusly.