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Im a survivor

caines | 10/4/2012, 5:30 a.m.

Breast Cancer survivor started organization to help save lives

While relentlessly battling breast cancer, Adrian McClenney, 42, started the Sisters Network Miami, an affiliate chapter of the national African American breast cancer organization, to help save lives, unite Black women in the fight against breast cancer and bring a broader scope of education in the Black community. McClenney is proud to now be cancer-free. But only a year and a half ago, her diagnosis of stage three inflammatory breast cancer left her in a state of confusion. At first, she was misdiagnosed because her rare breast cancer type was undetectable on mammograms. But she didn't let the doctors turn her away because the pain that she felt let her know that something was wrong. If I would have went by what they said, I would not be here [today], McClenney said. Even though she didnt know how to react when she was diagnosed with cancer, she knew that she was ready to fight. I asked the doctor whats next, McClenney said. I kept thinking about my children. There was no way I would leave my children here. She said her 10-year-old daughter, her college-aged son, her husband, other family members and friends really supported her during her most difficult times, when she was getting chemotherapy treatments. They didnt allow me to lay down and feel sorry for myself, McClenney said.

Reasons to fight

She tried her best to cook and do some of the things that she would normally do. Along with McClenney's family and other survivors who motivated her to unwaveringly fight breast cancer, it was also the memory of her grandmother and great grandmother, who both died from breast cancer, that encouraged her every day. "I am fighting for them and others, as well," she said. "And I will not lose." They were not fortunate to have the new medicine and technology that is available today, which now gives women a greater chance at surviving, according to McClenney. Although she had the support of her family, McClenney said it is also important for breast cancer survivors to have the emotional support and encouragement from a group of people who also have breast cancer. McClenney struggled for about six months to find that support system, so she started Sister's Network Miami on Feb. 8 because she didn't want it to be as hard for others as it was for her. McClenney said she felt God telling her that He wanted her to help other women who were battling with breast cancer.

Creating a sisterhood

Today, Sisters Network Miami has about 16 members. McClenney has learned that not all people who have breast cancer want to be a part of a breast cancer survivorship organization. She said some survivors dont like to discuss it at all. But she knows that by speaking up about it they can help others. According to McClenney, black women need to be more united in the fight against breast cancer because then they will be able to increase the survival rate. We have to fight, educate ourselves and stop being silent, she said. The group meets monthly to discuss their lives and encourage each other to keep fighting. They also reach out to the community and recruit members by giving out information to people at different stores. McClenney said she speaks out to everyone she comes in contact with to let them know that education and early detection is key. You dont have to die from breast cancer, she said. Its not a death sentence. I just want people to know that you can live. By Malika A. Wrightmwright@miamitimesonline.com