37.1 F
Monday, February 6, 2023

Two Women Give Personal Perspectives

[et_pb_section fb_built=”1″ _builder_version=”4.4.8″ global_colors_info=”{}”][et_pb_row _builder_version=”4.4.8″ global_colors_info=”{}”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”4.4.8″ global_colors_info=”{}”][et_pb_text admin_label=”Two Women Give Personal Perspectives” _builder_version=”4.11.2″ hover_enabled=”0″ global_colors_info=”{}” sticky_enabled=”0″]

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Ricki Fairley
Ricki Fairley is an Annapolitan who founded Touch, The Black Breast Cancer Alliance. The 10-year survivor of stage 3A triple-negative breast cancer was once given two years to live. Fairley now works as an advocate who wants to get rid of Black breast cancer. She raises awareness about the importance of Black women participating in clinical trial research, and the presence of higher mortality statistics. Fairley also promotes fighting breast cancer through early detection, in addition to providing resource information, and collaborating with pharmaceutical companies. Courtesy Photo

Bright pink ribbons and shirts signal the arrival of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month each October. Raising awareness about breast cancer includes women who are actively fighting against the disease and those who have already won. Ricki Fairley—an Annapolitan who can be spotted paddle boarding on the Chesapeake Bay embraces peace, selflove, and advocacy work after surviving stage 3 A triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC).

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cancer cells in this type are absent of common receptors such as estrogen, progesterone or a protein known as human epidermal growth factor (HER2) which are typically found in breast cancer. Fairley’s first oncologist did not have much experience treating women who had been diagnosed with TNBC. Fairley underwent chemotherapy and radiation, but the breast cancer returned.

The doctor gave Fairley two years to live. Her advice was to get her affairs in order when she lived in Atlanta. “I said, you really don’t understand. I can’t really die right now. I have a daughter that’s a sophomore at Dartmouth. I still have to pay for her to go to school so me, you, and God need to work this out,” Fairley said. A call to The Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation led to finding a specialist and experimental drugs for TNBC. Four months later, Fairley was cured.

Although ten years have passed since Fairley was diagnosed with it, the relentless advocate founded a nonprofit called Touch, The Black Breast Cancer Alliance in 2020 to fight against breast cancer from other angles. She is passionate about breast health education, encouraging Black women to participate in clinical trial research to enable data to improve treatment outcomes, and linking pharmaceutical companies with the goal of eradicating black breast cancer. Fairley pointed out that “Black women with breast cancer have a 71 percent higher risk of death than white women,” according to JAMA Oncology’s January 2021 findings.

Additionally, Black women who survive breast cancer have a 39 percent higher recurrence rate, per Phase 3 TAILORxTrial. With these kinds of findings in mind, Fairley began presenting the data to pharmaceutical leaders from a marketing perspective, after compiling numbers. Her prior career in the marketing field helped her to paint a detailed picture.

“The other thing is that Black women get triple-negative breast cancer at three times the rate,” Fairley said. “And when you look at the data, there’s only three percent participation of Black women in clinical trial research. That’s zero. We’re dying because the drugs don’t work,” Fairley said, while also mentioning additional issues such as access to medical care. When it comes to breast cancer, clinical trials can help women. “So part of our messaging is to help Black women say, ‘Hold on, wait a minute doctor. Is there a clinical trial treatment option for me?’” Fairley said.

Fairley reminded that research also needs to be conducted on healthy breasts. A final point to note is that getting mammograms during COVID can mean detection of smaller tumors. They are easier to treat if a woman does turn out to have breast cancer. Dr. Bonita Parker – a resident of Charles County in Maryland — agrees that getting mammograms on time is important.

Dr. Bonita Parker
Dr. Bonita Parker’s breast cancer is in remission. A breast self-exam led to discovery of a cancerous lump. The business owner embraced the cancer to take control of her journey. Meditation, journaling, prayer, and repeating affirmations became a part of her health regiment. Photo credit: Lindria Dockett Photography

The CEO Success Coach & Publisher, Bonita Parker Enterprises LLC. Parker was completing her annual conference, so she missed an annual mammogram appointment in 2017,

which was not her norm. Nevertheless, Parker had a feeling that she should check her breasts in the shower, after “God’s voice” told her to do it. “It was a nagging urge to do a self-exam. I finish my shower, dry off, and proceed with my exam. It was the absolute first place I touched. Right there on my left breast was a lump,” Parker said.

After booking an emergency appointment to see her OB/GYN physician, who sent Parker for an emergency mammogram and biopsy, it was confirmed as a cancerous mass. “I was then referred to my oncologist who conducted more scans and tests. And by December 22, 2017, I was diagnosed with triple-negative metastatic breast cancer (stage 4). The cancer was aggressive and had already spread to my lymph nodes by this time and attempted to penetrate my lungs,” Parker said.

A breast self-exam made a difference in Parker’s life. Her breast cancer has been in remission for three years, after she underwent aggressive treatment and seven surgeries. When she hits the fiveyear mark, Parker will officially be considered medically out of the woods. “And while I acted immediately when discovering my lump, imagine if I had kept my appointment three months sooner and the mass was detected at that time. It doesn’t take long for it to grow or spread. However, if detected early, there are more treatment options and a better chance for survival. I thank God for keeping me in the number,” Parker said.

Stories like Fairley and Parker’s underscore the importance of learning more about breast cancer treatment and prevention. Fairley also spreads education through a web series with Dr. Monique Gary presented through the BlackDoctor.org. “The Doctor Is In” is available weekly through Facebook Live. You may also connect with Fairley via https://www.touchbbca.org/ .

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row column_structure=”1_3,1_3,1_3″ _builder_version=”4.11.2″ _module_preset=”default” global_colors_info=”{}”][et_pb_column type=”1_3″ _builder_version=”4.11.2″ _module_preset=”default” global_colors_info=”{}”][et_pb_text _builder_version=”4.11.2″ _module_preset=”default” global_colors_info=”{}”]

Ricki Fairley
Ricki Fairley spends time with her grandchildren during her nonprofit’s first anniversary party. Courtesy Photo
[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][et_pb_column type=”1_3″ _builder_version=”4.11.2″ _module_preset=”default” global_colors_info=”{}”][et_pb_text _builder_version=”4.11.2″ _module_preset=”default” global_colors_info=”{}”]
Ricki Fairley and her two daughters
Ricki Fairley and her two daughters were photographed together when the breast cancer survivor was undergoing chemotherapy in 2012. Photo credit: Tabia Parker
[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][et_pb_column type=”1_3″ _builder_version=”4.11.2″ _module_preset=”default” global_colors_info=”{}”][et_pb_text _builder_version=”4.11.2″ _module_preset=”default” global_colors_info=”{}”]
Ricki Fairley and her family
Ricki Fairley and her family participated in Susan G. Komen’s ® 60 mile, 3-day walk in San Diego. Ca. in 2018.

Click Here to See More posts by this Author

Related Articles

Get in Touch


Latest Posts