TUPELO – Families, friends and supporters of women who are cancer survivors, have been diagnosed with cancer or lost someone to cancer were more than 300 strong at the BancorpSouth Conference Center on Saturday for the Sisters Network of Tupelo’s fifth annual Pink Ribbon Luncheon and Fashion Show.
The occasion was marked by national organization founder Karen Eubanks Jackson of Houston, Texas, as keynote speaker.
Jackson, an 18-year cancer survivor, said she started the organization 17 years ago because when she was diagnosed she was looking for just such a support system.
“I felt we as African-American women needed a voice, and I come from a family of organizers so it was natural for me to get something going myself,” Karen Jackson said.
The story of a survivor, Bishop Allene Jackson, not only inspired and encouraged others, but also showed why Sisters Network is so important to the 15 counties it serves.
“Sometimes we are close-mouthed about our situations,” the bishop said. “I was at a women’s information conference in October 2010 where Sisters Network talked about getting a mammogram. I didn’t have insurance, but they got me an appointment and paid for my mammogram.”
The mammogram showed something suspicious and was followed by a sonogram which confirmed a mass. In another week Bishop Jackson had a biopsy which showed the mass was malignant.
Though she gives herself regular self-checks, the mass was in her chest wall in a place where her own examinations would not detect it. Sisters Network provides free mammograms for people who cannot afford it, as well as information and support.
“I’m still here because I called all around to let people in my support system know I needed their prayers – California, Connecticut, across Mississippi people were praying for me, and I give God the praise for this great organization,” Bishop Jackson said.
In the nine years since the Tupelo chapter of Sisters Network was founded it has grown to serve 15 counties, but chapter president Norma Derring said she wants the organization to do more.
“We really want to reach out more in Northeast Mississippi,” Derring said. “We’re looking for sponsorships to get a Sister House here for women going through treatment, as a place for them to relax and as a resource center. I’m just overwhelmed and just can’t put into words how grateful I am for the support.”
Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal Corinth Bureau