The myth that breast cancer is an older woman’s disease has gone on long enough. On Saturday, a local Tampa community organization called Methods of Empowerment (MOE) held a fashion show at the University Lecture Hall to put an end to that myth.
The show celebrated breast cancer survivors and their families and was the first of its kind since MOE came to campus. It included performances that brought encouragement to people diagnosed with the disease.
The organization was founded a year ago by assistant pastor of Church Without Walls Brenda Fruster, who was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago.
“I see myself as a Harriet Tubman,” Fruster said. “Once I’ve been brought out of something, I must go back and help others who are going through the same thing.”
Fruster knows firsthand what women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer are going through and said she wants to spread the knowledge, share her experience and offer support to those women.
Student Sashay Smith, who wanted to dispel rumors that the disease is not just an older woman’s disease, brought MOE to USF this semester to raise awareness among students.
“They need to know it can affect them or someone they are close to, and they need to know that we are here to support them,” Smith said.
From the short time that the organization has been on campus, Smith said she has come in contact with many students who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and have found the organization to be useful.
Worldwide, more and more younger women are being diagnosed with cancer every year. According to the Australia Institute of Health and Welfare, 24 percent of breast cancer cases in 2001 occurred in women ages 20 to 49.
In addition, breast cancer cells are likely to be larger and more aggressive in younger women, and the survival rates are lower, according to the AIHW. Women over the age of 50 have an 85 percent survival rate, while those under 50 have a 72 percent survival rate.
“Breast cancer is not an older women’s disease,” Fruster said. “This is a myth that needs to be dismantled.”
MOE does not only help younger women. It provides many services to breast cancer patients in general, such as transportation, counsel, food, financial assistance, visitations and seminars.
“Women with breast cancer go through a lot, and we’re one of the few organizations in the community that offer all those programs,” Fluster said.
The organization also has programs that help friends and families of people who have been diagnosed with the disease. Smith noted that these people sometimes need just as much support and counsel to help them cope.
Before she founded the organization, Fruster offered her services through her individual efforts, but she thought that the organization would be a more productive way of making a difference. It is also a tribute to her grandmother, who died of breast cancer.