A strong faith has been the biggest weapon in the fight against cancer for Linda Daniel and Sherrill Johnson.
“I have had breast cancer twice. The medical professionals say I’m a survivor, I’m in remission. As a Christian, I’m healed,” said Daniel, of Alsen. “(God) put doctors and nurses and researchers to help us along this journey, but we couldn’t have made it without faith in God.”
“I have a connection with God,” said Johnson, of St. Francisville. “I have favor with God and all is well.”
Daniel and Johnson, along with other cancer survivors, family, friends and a host of others, were part of the fourth annual Jazzy in Pink breast cancer awareness benefit on Sunday at Hemingbough in St. Francisville.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The program was hosted by Sisters Supporting Sisters-Baton Rouge, a nonprofit organization of black women dedicated to helping educate area women and provide services about good breast cancer health.
Daniel serves as vice president of the organization. Wanda Washington is the president.
“It’s not faith-based but we are women of faith,” Daniel said.
Daniel, 63, said her faith in God was strengthened after she was the diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time in 1990 at the age of 37. She felt a lump in her breast and went to see her doctor. She was in Stage 1.
“When they said I had it, I gave it to God,” said Daniel, a member of Living Faith Christian Center in Baton Rouge. “My faith was real strong, so that wasn’t a problem. We just went on and people were amazed that I was recovering and going through.”
When the cancer returned in 2010, Daniel was more than ready for that battle.
“With my experience, it brought me closer to God,” she said.
Johnson, 50, was diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago after a routine mammogram.
She went through six rounds of chemotherapy and 33 radiation treatments.
“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” Johnson said. “But I know it made me a better person. It made me stronger. It made me more resilient. … Honestly, nobody wants to be sick. Nobody wants to be told they have cancer, but what I got out of it was it enriched me so that it was worth what I went through.”
Johnson, a member of Sherobee Baptist Church in St. Francisville, said she went through it assured that God loved her and was in control.
“From the good teaching that I was under in my church, I knew that God would not put no more on me than I could bear,” she said. “But also, too, I have a discerning spirit, and nothing in my spirit told me I wasn’t going to be well.”
Johnson said she’s doing well and also draws inspiration from her 89-year-old mother, who joined her at the benefit.
“She’s in good health,” Johnson said. “I expect to live every bit that age or older.”
Johnson and Daniel have been reinvigorated. Both are working on their second careers, so to speak.
Daniel worked for the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office as a counselor and probation officer before “retiring” and joining the East Baton Parish school system.
Johnson was a longtime employee of the West Feliciana Parish school system before joining parish government.
Though busy with their jobs, Daniel and Johnson find time for Sisters Supporting Sisters — to share their experiences, to help others.
“I’m with a group of positive women,” Johnson said.
Daniel calls it a “passion of love.”
“I feel this is my mission,” she added. “Everybody has something in life they must do. This is want I must do until God calls me on.”
Daniel said the group’s main target is black women, because they are the ones most likely to be diagnosed at a later stage, resulting in more deaths
“It’s running rampant in the African-American community. ... It’s running rampant in the young women. We need to really be aggressive and be out there,” Daniel said.
“Our job as Sisters Supporting Sisters is to support our sisters, their families, and walk with our them during this journey. Our objective is to make sure everyone gets a mammogram, know the services that are out there, to help them, and we’re out there for them,” she said.
Sisters Supporting Sisters was founded in 1996 through the efforts of Gwendolyn Brooks and the late Carolyn Weatherspoon. The group meets from 10 a.m. to noon every first Saturday at Camphor United Methodist Church, 8742 Scenic Highway, Baton Rouge.
“We want to be open,” Daniel said. “Somebody’s going to step in that door that needs our services. Sometimes they just need our listening ear. Sometimes they need somebody to know what’s going on with them. So we try to be that avenue for them.”
Jazzy in Pink was a wonderful and classy benefit for Sisters Supporting Sisters. It had live music, dancing, fine food and fellowship.
Pink and white balloons were released in remembrance of those lost to breast cancer.
“You know in the back in your mind this may happen,” Daniel said. “Death may come to all of us, no matter how it comes. It may come through breast cancer. So when we have an organization like this, you join it for support and uplift. … It takes strength to navigate this journey and it takes a whole lot of love. You have to have an inner peace, that peace that nobody could give you but God.”
For information, call (225) 921-9072 or go to sistersbatonrouge.org .
Fighting domestic abuse
As a trained counselor of about 25 years, Pollie Johnson wants people to be delivered from domestic violence, an issue that gets a greater spotlight during the Domestic Abuse Awareness Month of October.
As a minister, Johnson wants domestic violence victims and perpetrators to be delivered through the word of God.
“My counseling and my teaching involves helping a person, not forcing a person but giving them an opportunity to be changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is what it is all about: the use of Scripture to help people change,” said Johnson, the pastor of Resurrection Life Family Ministries in Baton Rouge.
The church serves as a faith-based intervention center for chemical dependency and domestic violence. The majority of clients in the program are assigned through the East Baton Rouge Parish court system.
Classes are held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday at Resurrection Life Family Ministries, 722 N. Carrollton Drive, Baton Rouge.
As many as 35 people have attended the 26-week program, Johnson said.
“Any kind of violence toward another adult and even toward a child is inappropriate,” said the 65-year-old Johnson, who is also a registered nurse. “It is not acceptable. It is illegal to do it, and also it is not in the best interests of having a good relationship if you’re a violent person.”
Louisiana ranks second in the nation for homicides related to domestic abuse, according to one study.
“People are dying because of these relationships,” Johnson said. “Nobody wants to be in a relationship where you’re likely to die. It’s pretty serious.”
Johnson expressed dismay that other groups, particularly churches, are reluctant to get involved in the fight against domestic abuse.
“That’s another reason to do something like this: to educate the public and faith-based people as well, who don’t want to hear nothing about it and get involved because they might become a target,” she said.
A native of Montgomery, Alabama, and a graduate of Tuskegee University, Johnson has been in the ministry for 30 years and the pastor of Resurrection Life Family Ministries for 12 years.
For information on the intervention program, call (225) 925-8233 or email email@example.com