Meet Me Where I Am, Honor Where I’m From
Guest post by Becca Najera, Martinez Street Women’s Center Assistant Director.
In April, Chaeo Mexdan was approached by promotoras from the Martinez Street Women’s Center. She was invited to an evening of breast health awareness where she would learn lifesaving information, play a breast cancer bingo game and have the opportunity to see a volunteer doctor for a free clinical breast exam. Upon arriving at the Center, she was warmly welcomed and felt right at home with all the Spanish speakers. After a presentation about breast health and breast cancer, Chaeo suspected she had a breast change that needed to be addressed.
Generally speaking, most people are aware of underprivileged families struggling with poverty or homelessness. It may not be as easy to see the struggle of the working poor so clearly. Such was the case for Chaeo Mexdan – an amazing artist and Flamenco/Folklorico dance instructor. Chaeo worked with senior citizens and founded the Ballet Tesoro in San Antonio. She never had any extra resources to keep up with her with her regular medical appointments, including her annual mammogram. She tucked her concerns away in the very back of her mind, always hoping she would resolve her need some day.
She will be the first to tell you it was nothing short of a miracle that the Martinez Street Women’s Center reached out to her when they did. Upon arriving at the breast health awareness event, Chaeo was convinced: this was where she needed to be. The promotoras spoke to her about the importance of recognizing and reporting changes in her breast. They also shared this information in a way that recognized who Chaeo was as an individual, and honored her culture.
After learning about signs and symptoms, she saw the on-site doctor that night for her clinical breast exam. The doctor did feel a lump, and wrote out a prescription for a free diagnostic mammogram.
On Cinco de Mayo, at an event hosted by the Martinez Street Women’s Center, Chaeo unexpectedly took the microphone and gave her testimony. She shared that she was so relieved to get the results back from her diagnostic mammogram and find that she had a fibrocystic change – a cyst – which was not cancerous. She encouraged the crowd to seek out these resources. She spoke of the importance of having a center like the Martinez Street Women’s Center that would reach out and meet people where they are, and honor where they are from.
The Martinez Street Women’s Center has continued to work in communities identified as having the most need for breast health education and screenings. Working with the Martinez Street Women’s Center for 13 years has given me many opportunities to bring education to disparate communities.
Support from organizations like Komen, make this work possible. We have been partners with Komen San Antonio for 9 years, annually reaching more than 5,000 traditionally marginalized community women. In San Antonio we engage mostly Hispanic/Latina women (80 percent), African American women (15 percent) and other racial and ethnic groups (5 percent) whose average household income is less than $10,000. We were pleased to have the opportunity to pilot the new Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Education Toolkit for Hispanic/Latino Communities. The Toolkit provided us with tools and resources to enhance the cultural competency and knowledge of our breast health educators. It allowed us to make a difference in the life of Chaeo, and will no doubt be a vital resource for women everywhere.
About the author
Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, we have invested more than $1.9 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.