Teresa Sanchez was pregnant with her first child when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I heard her story as anecdota over the course of our three days in Redondo Beach for the First National Bilingual Conference on Breast Cancer, sponsored by the Y-Me National Breast Cancer Organization. I believe she was unaware of the strength and bravery her testimonial betrayed. Teresa has a refined, gentle manner and a lovely accent. It was easy to listen to her and fascinating to learn how her precious and healthy young son came into the world; Teresa believes he saved her life. “I might never have known about my own breast cancer until it was too late, if I had not been pregnant with my son,” she said. I listened to her speak as we prepared to descend to the conference level.
We met with other women as we chatted and moved through our pleasant surroundings at the Crown Plaza Hotel and soon we passed into the main conference room. There was a delicious freedom in being able to flesh out my word images freely in two languages. Over and over I shamelessly eavesdropped as I made my way to my seat. Everywhere women were combining the technical precision of English and rich, descriptive Spanish, “It was about 2 and half centimeters, asi de grande ! ” “Si, carino, just give me your e-mail address.” It was a communication fiesta. I soon realized that our conference was not really a national conference at all, but rather an international conference. There were Mexicans attending from Mexico, and Puerto Ricans from Puerto Rico, there was an attendee from San Salvador. One language and purpose joined these many nations. Una Cinta Latina.
Our keynote speaker was Dr. Amelia Ramierez of Baylor College of Medicine in Texas and Redes En Accion. I took quick notes as she gave us a visually excellent and valuable lesson in Latino history. A “mosaic of cultures,” she called it. Latinas from all over the world share the same language, she said, but different cultural legacies. Easily switching between English and Spanish Dr. Ramierez explained En Accion’s successful multi-faceted community programs which present an identical message in newspaper ads, TV commercials, handouts and radio to “a culture dominated by honor and pride.” This redundancy serves to reinforce the message and alert the community to available cancer interventions and opens the door for dialogue and discussion for breast health, early screening and mammography.
I squeezed in to attend a lecture on Clinical Trials by Dr. Irma Russo, Chief of Molecular Endocrinology and the Breast Cancer Research Laboratory at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. Dr. Russo is also Adjunct Professor of Pathology and Cell Biology, at Thomas Jefferson College of Medicine. Her fascinating lecture was packed out, SRO (standing room only).
The lecture “Equal Treatment Leads to Equal Results” by Dr. Otis Brawley of The National Cancer Institute, (NCI) generated many thoughtful comments concerning disparate health care. We had fun with Dr. Marlena Vega from the South Bronx’s Fort Apache area, (my home town) who taught us all “The 3 Finger Macarena.” I heard rave reviews about Dr. José Marti of En Acción as well.
This writer spoke on Evidence of Incidence, Mortality and Survivorship: Statistics on Breast Cancer in the U.S. and Global Latino Community, and Best Practices in Physician/Latino-Patient Relations, in English and then in Spanish. The information was well received.
Teresa Sánchez was disturbed to find that there were so many areas of continuing need for reform in the breast cancer and health care of the Latino community. We agreed, the importance of this first bilingual conference was the marvelous opportunity to martial Latino resources and to network.
Cinta Latina seeks to see this resources and information exchange happen now. The Y-Me Breast Cancer Organization and its conference director, Catalina Ramos, have opened a Pathway for us. We, must enter in.
Many thanks to THE NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE (NCI) who provided a grant and sponsored both lectures: Evidence of Incidence, Mortality and Survivorship: Statistics on Breast Cancer in the U.S. and Global Latino Community and Best Practices: Cultural Sensitivity For Breast Health Practitioners: Erradicating Barriers to Breast Health as well as this review of THE FIRST NATIONAL BILINGUAL CONFERENCE ON BREAST CANCER.