For the past 17 years, Frankie Darcell, Mix 92.3 radio personality, has organized the Sista Strut, bringing women together to raise money, increase awareness and create a platform of support for women affected by breast cancer. This year the event took place October 4 at Detroit Riverfront: Rivard Place. Donations benefited the Karmanos Cancer Institute.
Darcell recalls when her mother, Rosa, was first diagnosed with breast cancer. She said, “I dropped her off at Karmanos and her doctor called me to come back right away. Dr. Lisa Newman, a physician at Karmanos at the time, told Darcell that her mother, at age 65, had breast cancer. The news was shocking, but not devastating because Darcell “claimed she was going to be a survivor.”
The emotional drain breast cancer has on loved ones can be overwhelming.“I had everything but the cancer, because you’re right there in it. You have to have a network of people,” she said.
Darcell began speaking out about breast cancer awareness and promoting Sista Strut in 2003.
“You couldn’t say the word breast on the radio,” she says, thinking about how far breast cancer awareness has come. She enjoyed supporting women with breast cancer while expanding awareness, but as the years went on “a lot didn’t make it.”
Darcell’s mother has been in remission for 15 years. This year Sista Strut kicked off Friday, October 3, with a gala featuring Jasmine Sullivan and Tracie Braxton.
Sandra Whisonant is a friend of Frankie Darcell, dating back to college. They played basketball and have stayed in touch throughout the years. Every year, Darcell, Whisonant and other women from college come together to get up to date and enjoy each other’s company. Whisonant was in the shower and noticed a lump on her right breast in October 2003. She decided to have a mastectomy of her right breast. At the time she had an 8-year-old daughter who did not fully understand what breast cancer was but knew her mother was in pain.
In 2005, Whisonant’s annual mammogram found another lump in her left breast, which she also had removed and underwent chemotherapy. After the second mastectomy, her doctor said she was “cancer free.” “Cancer-free does not mean you don’t have cancer, it means the machine did not scan any cancer,” she clarified. In 2008, Whisonant felt a hard lump under her arm and was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, which had spread to her liver and lungs.
“It’s a diagnosis, it’s only what you let it be,” she said.
Whisonant was told she had four years to live after being diagnosed with the last stage of cancer. Six years later, is still jogging, visiting her daughter at Southern University and her friends when her energy level is high. At this stage Sandra Whisonant’s doctors at the Cancer Center of America are trying two different alternatives to prolong her life.
“I live for today and keep my mind on God and that keeps my peace,” she said.