Walking all over cancer: Black Expo luncheon honors survivors, urges preventative measures

Oct. 29—ANDERSON — At age 102, Hattie Fowlkes has beaten breast cancer twice but, as family and friends mentioned Saturday, her proudest accomplishments are her grandchildren.

She raised five as her own while fighting the disease in her 80s.

Fowlkes' story, shared with dozens of other cancer survivors and community health advocates at the Anderson Museum of Art, drew a prolonged standing ovation from those gathered for the Anderson Black Expo's annual Walk All Over Cancer Fashion Show and luncheon.

"We just want to let them know that the community is with them and we care," said Candace McDonald, president of the Anderson Black Expo.

Other cancer survivors served as models for the fashion show, strutting along a makeshift runway in the museum's large meeting area, often to loud cheers from the audience.

"I want them to have fun, enjoy life, be spontaneous," said Candace Olden-Hines, a volunteer with the Black Expo who organized the fashion show.

"We would like to honor them in the highest way. We couldn't think of a better way but to have them walk the runway themselves."

Olden-Hines said the survivors' accounts of their journeys from diagnosis to remission should serve to encourage others in the community to act compassionately and consider ways they can help make their neighborhoods more welcoming.

"You never know who's going through something right now," she said. "Hearing things like this can empower and encourage a lot of things we need."

Another key purpose of the event, organizers said, was to raise awareness of the importance of mammograms, regular breast exams and early detection.

According to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, while breast cancer occurrence rates among Black and white women are similar, mortality rates among Black women are 40% higher than their white counterparts.

"There are still racial disparities in quality health care that we need to raise awareness of," said Kim Townsend, executive director of the Anderson Housing Authority and a 10-year breast cancer survivor.

"We need to ensure that everybody has equal access to treatment and testing, and make it more affordable for women to receive mammograms and testing."

Follow Andy Knight on Twitter @Andrew_J_Knight, or call 765-640-4809.