Huge Health Fair Coming to LBC
By Dianne Anderson
By the time Antoinette Greer had breast cancer surgery, she was justifiably angry.
Like a lot of Black women, her doctor brushed off her concerns and a request for a biopsy after she discovered an unusually thick breast mass — something they said was calcification and they should just watch and wait.
Waiting was a bad move, and nearly cost her life.
The mass had grown to advanced stage 3B with an aggressive estrogen tumor that had grown to 4.5 centimeters. She was diagnosed at 40 years old, but the tumor was forming much earlier.
“I had an estrogen receptive positive tumor which means it used my own body’s estrogen to help it grow,” said Greer, who co-founded My Sister My Friend Breast Cancer Support along with three other survivors in 2006.
Her lymph nodes were removed as a precaution, but showed no cancer, meaning the chance of spread or metastasis was minimal.
She wishes she would have advocated stronger for herself back then. It was a hard long road to recovery.
“I had to do aggressive treatment, three chemo drugs and a modified radical mastectomy. I had to do (twenty-six treatments) of radiation,” she said. “It took a year of treatment, and five years of Tamoxifen therapy to reduce the estrogen.”
Black women must get tested early for a life-saving diagnosis, she said. Unlike her situation where access was so limited, she is excited about free early screenings that will be available at an upcoming local health fair.
On May 21, Greer will once again have a booth at the Long Beach Convention Center, which is set to host hundreds of health vendors at a full-day event.
The Women’s Health Expo presented by Long Beach Black Infant Health brings together quality breakout sessions to address community concerns in healthcare, medicine, mental health, financial health and technology.
Greer’s nonprofit serves 30-50 women each month, meeting needs across several areas, including a partnership with Angel Food to provide daily hot meals, and financial assistance with referrals for $350 a month. They also assist clients to access Social Security Disability Insurance, along with mental health services.
Her program also includes a social worker with case management and a licensed therapist, who is also a survivor of breast cancer.
“We accept clients and patients throughout L.A. County. They are typically referred to us for treatment from local hospitals that don’t necessarily have culturally competent support groups that focus on breast cancer,” she said.
The American Cancer Society finds that Black women are 40% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women and twice as likely to die from it if they are over 50.
About a third of African American women have reported experiencing racial discrimination at a health provider visit.
The statistics are dire, and Green stressed that Black women can’t wait on getting their tests.
“My hope is that we’re a community totally engaged in self-care because we’ve been through some critical times dealing with so much at once,” she said.
Before her diagnosis, Greer worked for the postal service in human resources, but was forced to retire through her surgery and harsh chemotherapy. Because the medical system is not attentive to Black women, she said the community needs early-stage cancer tests to ensure survival.
“When I went through my treatment, that’s how I learned what was missing and lacking in our community,” she said.
But while the event is sponsored by women, it’s not exclusively for women.
Men have health needs, too.
Eric Burroughs, health chair of the 100 Black Men of Long Beach, attended the last health fair before COVID hit.
He is sure the upcoming event is going to be massive. “The 100” is also hosting a booth, and he wants the community to come out, mask up and get all the free tests they need.
This year, the event promises a lot of other attractions at what is dubbed the biggest health fair on the west coast. He credits Councilman Rex Richardson for getting the event moved from the L.A. Convention Center to Long Beach.
During the pandemic lockdown, he said most people could only access Telemed because primary care was so limited. People have not been getting regular checkups for a long time.
He said the event will have six medical mobile units on site.
“It’s not just walking around and talking. They’re going to be doing blood pressure screenings, and cancer screenings. You can literally come and get a physical there,” he said.
At his booth, Burroughs will also pass out information on their award-winning 100 BMLB programs. The organization especially reaches out to single moms and grandmothers to offer resources for young boys and youth. Last week, the nonprofit restarted its campus meetings at Cal State University, Long Beach. They are preparing for an upcoming leadership academy.
He said the health fair will cover a lot of workshops, entertainment, and celebrities. At the last event, Stevie Wonder popped up, which he said could happen again. Wonder’s radio station KJLH has been on a media blitz to get the community out.
“It’s not just a health fair, it’s a forum a summit, in the morning there will have sessions. They will have breast cancer prevention, specials on relationships with all the rooms are filled with seminars and hot topics,” he said. “The whole floor is lit with vendors.”
To register for the KJLH Women’s Health Expo, see https://kjlhradio.com/22nd-annual-womens-health-expo-presented-by-black-infant-health/
For breast cancer support, see https://www.mysistermyfriendbcs.net/
For more cancer facts, see https://www.cancer.org/about-us/what-we-do/health-equity/cancer-disparities-in-the-black-community.html
For services with “the 100” see, https://www.100blackmenlbc.com/