Praises in Pink: A beacon of hope for breast cancer survivors

Published 7:00 am Saturday, October 24, 2015

Cassandra Favre | Picayune Item praises in pink: From left, Brian Dees, Melanie Dedeaux, Beverly Roberts, Barbara Haralson,  Alice Wilkes and Andrea Brown-Burton.  Photo by Cassandra Favre

Cassandra Favre | Picayune Item
praises in pink: From left, Brian Dees, Melanie Dedeaux, Beverly Roberts, Barbara Haralson, Alice Wilkes and Andrea Brown-Burton.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” ¬¬¬–– Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

For the past five years, the congregation of Picayune’s East Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church has sponsored Praises in Pink in honor of breast cancer survivors.
The uplifting program began with member Beverly Roberts’ vision, Pastor Brian Dees said.
“She had a concern and wanted to give back to women who suffered with breast cancer and raise awareness,” Dees said. “She told me she wanted to put forth an effort to purchase vouchers for mammograms and bless those that don’t have the money to pay for it.”
Roberts’ goal is to stress the importance of mammograms and the affect breast cancer has on families. Praises in Pink is a group of women in the church with a desire to help survivors of breast cancer and form this ministry, she said.
During the church’s program, women in the community share personal testimonies about their struggles with breast cancer, Dees said. There is also singing and worshiping.
“As a man, I’ve been inspired,” Dees said. “I never associated with pink and I have learned what it symbolizes and means. It really encourages and inspires me.”
Last year, Praises in Pink added another benefit, vouchers for mammograms, Roberts said.
The vouchers are paid for by donations that come from the congregation during a designated Sunday offering, Dees said.
In 2014, Roberts said she delivered six mammogram vouchers to the Pearl River County Health Department for women in need.
So far this year, Roberts has seven vouchers and hopes with donations made from today’s program to purchase more. Officials are also hoping to donate travel funds for patients undergoing chemotherapy, Roberts said. In addition to vouchers, the group donates money to the Pink Flamingo Foundation, an organization that makes wigs for cancer patients.
This year, a walk has been added to the program, which will begin today at 9:45 a.m. at Leola Jordan Park on East Canal and will end at the church, located at 1124 East Jerusalem St. This year’s guest speakers include Debra Underwood, Tina Dorsey and B.J. Evans, all breast cancer survivors. Lunch will be provided after the program.
“It has truly been a blessing,” Roberts said.

Three-time survivor

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In 1979, 31-year old Alice S. Wilkes discovered a lump in her right breast during a self-exam. She was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer and underwent a single mastectomy.
At that time, doctors didn’t recommend a double mastectomy, which was a newer procedure then, she said.
In 1989, Wilkes discovered another lump in her left breast, which was also stage one. Her breast was removed and she also underwent chemotherapy.
Once again in 1995, Wilkes found another lump, this time on the left side of her rib cage.
“The doctor couldn’t believe I found the lumps because they were small, about the size of an English pea,” Wilkes said. “Through God’s grace I found them.”
Doctors removed the lump and Wilkes once again underwent radiation and chemotherapy.
Wilkes is unsure of any prior family history, but said her sister tested positive for the breast cancer gene. Since then, two of her sisters and two of Wilkes’ nieces have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
When she was first diagnosed, Wilkes knew she could not die because she had a six-month old son, Nicholas, to raise.
“Each time I prayed that I would be able to raise him,” she said. “I knew I would do whatever it took to live.”
After surviving her third bout with breast cancer, Wilkes said she knew God was using her as a testimony.
“I never thought ‘why me?’’’ she said, “because of what God could be manifesting through my life, that he was and is a healer. I recommend women begin self-examinations in their 20s. Praises in Pink displays camaraderie and a love for people. There’s a care.”

One missed mammogram

Since her 30s, 66-year-old Barbara Haralson performed self-breast examinations.
When the time came, she underwent a mammogram every year, excepting one.
In November of 2013, she found a lump in her left breast after a self-examination. After a mammogram, biopsy and ultrasound, doctors discovered she had stage two breast cancer. Soon after, Haralson said she made up her mind about what she needed to do.
“I wanted them to perform a mastectomy, not just remove the lump,” she said. “The doctor removed 15 lymph nodes and only one was positive. The cancer had not spread.”
In January 2014, doctors performed Haralson’s mastectomy and she received chemotherapy and radiation.
Through it all, Haralson said she knew God would bring her through it.
“He takes care of us when we give our life to him,” she said. “Sister Alice gave me a lot of support and advice. She taught me how to take care of myself even when I wanted to be hard headed.”
During her treatments, Haralson said she wanted to be around people, but was unable because her immune system was comprised.
Early detection is key, she said, it’s important for both men and women to perform self-examinations.
“I know the Lord promises me that He will never leave or forsake me,” Haralson said. “You can speak it, but you have to believe it. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I thank God for Praises in Pink for helping young women get mammograms and gas money. It’s an excellent program because it helps when people talk with, encourage and pray for you.”
For more information about Praises in Pink contact Roberts and Dees at 601-347-1792 or 601-798-5056.