PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Local sisters are getting national attention this week in the fight against breast cancer.
The sisters, Tanya Weaver and Kim Pender, are part of a spread in People magazine for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
One sister started a grassroots effort to save lives by getting mammograms for Black women in Portsmouth. The other sister is a cancer survivor.
Weaver’s crusade began when she started working at the Portsmouth Health Department 11 years ago.
“I found out that Portsmouth was ranked number two in the state at that time of African American women dying from breast cancer,” Weaver said.
Determined to find out why, Weaver sent out surveys and discovered women in the poorest areas were dying more often from breast cancer and getting little to no information.
“They really didn’t understand what a mammogram was, they thought that a mammogram was actually removing the breast,” Weaver told WAVY.
With the blessing of her pastor, Charles Beamon, at Fourth Baptist Church, Weaver began holding free line dance classes on Friday nights. In between sets, they’d slip in education.
“Then we would encourage the women to bring more women next week when [they] come and they actually did,” Weaver said.
During this time her sister, Pender, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Pender came to the events to share her story with the women they were trying to reach.
“It’s scary to hear what happens but it’s also a blessing to hear what happens because you can expect it and deal with it you can learn to live with it,” Pender said.
The sisters worked to set up mammograms appointments. Over about two years from 2014 to 2016, they reached 448 women. 39 were diagnosed with cancer, and 36 are still alive because of early detection.
They are making in-roads but much more needs to be done Weaver said.
“I’m so excited that there’s organizations like American Cancer Society, Susan G, Komen — they’re stepping up wit addressing the disparities,” she said.
Komen recently launched H.E.R. which stands for health equity revolution.
The sisters also support the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides walk, happening this Sunday, Oct. 17, in Newport News and Norfolk.
“We laugh, we cheer, we cry, we talk, we hug,” Pender said.
They’ll do anything to get the word out to as many women as possible.
WAVY-TV and FOX 43 are proud sponsors of the Making Strides walks in Norfolk and Newport News happening this Sunday. If you can’t walk it but would like to donate, you can give money to Pender’s team called “A Sister’s Keeper.”