SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – It was a night of empowerment and awareness for Filipino American women who have survived breast cancer. It was also a night to remember those who were lost to the disease.
Two-time breast cancer survivor Jo-Ann Agcaoili and Marilen Bernardo, who lost her mother to breast cancer, threw this “Pink Party” with the goal to inform the Filipino American community about the serious effect breast cancer has on fellow kababayans.
“This is so personal for me because I really want to empower a lot of women,” said Agcaoili. “If they didn’t find it early for me I wouldn’t be here now. So the key for me is early detection and if I could touch a lot of women here tonight so be it and that’s my goal.
“Breast cancer is taboo,” said Bernardo. “Not a lot of people talk about breast cancer. Not a lot of people talk about getting a mammogram. Hopefully one event at a time, one small party at a time, one get-together, one conversation at a time hopefully people will gather around and talk about that awareness and about getting mammograms and getting your loved ones checked.”
According to the American Cancer Society, a woman living in the United States has a 12.3 percent chance, or a one in eight, lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.
But the good news is death rates from breast cancer among women in the U.S. dropped 35 percent from 1990 to 2011 thanks to early detection from mammograms.
“It’s really important to raise awareness in our community because early detection is key,” said Agcaoili. “In fact, let me just cite a source. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of Minority Health, breast cancer is the leading cause of death of Filipino American women.
These ladies also want to encourage families who are dealing with breast cancer.
“I could never stress enough to tell your loved ones you love them because life is so short and they can never hear I love you enough,” said Bernardo.
“Harness your strength because that is what will guide you through it all,” said Agcaoili. “Friends and family gave me my strength and also more importantly hope, because life is worth fighting for.
Proceeds from the Pink Party went to the American Cancer Society for more research about treatment and prevention.