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Survivn’ & Thrivin’! 

A powerful conversation with Reona Berry on Breast Cancer

Since its inception in1990, The African American Breast Cancer Alliance (AABCA) has been sharing culturally specific, easy-to-understand and life-affirming information about breast cancer with African Americans. The organization is dedicated to providing hope, awareness, education, emotional and social support to breast cancer survivors, their family members, and the community. AABCA is recognized locally and nationally for its collaborative efforts and innovative educational materials. Reona Berry is a founding member and president of the African American Breast Cancer Alliance (AABCA).

QL: What prompted you to start AABCA?

When I met other black women at the Minneapolis YWCA's Mastectomy Support Group in 1990 we all felt so glad that there are other black women with breast cancer that we can connect with.  Linda Finney, who also had breast cancer, prompted us to gather and ask: "Why we didn't see other black women?, Why don't we talk about breast cancer?, What did we know about breast cancer?”. These questions - and subsequent responses - coupled with the lack of culturally-specific support at the time, prompted us to form AABCA.

QL: There’s a more aggressive form of breast cancer affecting women earlier in life. What's important for young Black Women to know about prevention, treatment and getting regular mammograms?

Because 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at sometime in their lives all women are at risk.  Black women tend to have more aggressive types of breast cancer that can be hard to treat.

Women are affected by hormones, especially estrogen that builds throughout our lives.  Women as young as age 15 are being diagnosed with breast cancer.  Unfortunately, young women under age 40 think breast cancer is an older woman's disease. 

The ABCs of Breast Health:

Annual Mammograms for women over age 40.

Breast Self-Exam

Clinical Breast Exam


QL: You are a 30+ survivor!! That's encouraging! What does that say about living a quality life despite a breast cancer diagnosis? Are treatments better? Are you hopeful we're getting closer to a cure? What do you attribute long term survival to

I admit I have been blessed being a 2 time, 33 year breast cancer survivor as I certainly didn't think I would be here this long.  There are so many factors of living and thriving through breast cancer that I do not know about.  It is so unpredictable.  Living a quality life for me has been living your best day by day, taking the good with the bad, building on healthy eating, exercising my body and mind, knowing that there is a higher power controlling our destiny and finding joy in little and big waves of life.  

Breast cancer treatments today are wonderful and expanding with new research compared to 50 years ago and they will get even better!  Long term survival is relative, it depends on the person's body, the type of cancer, and many other factors we may or may not have control over.  Our bodies are not meant to last forever.

QL: Newly diagnosed breast cancer patients may not feel comfortable sharing their experience. What words of encouragement would you share with them and why AABCA has helped hundreds of women thrive despite it?

AABCA wants to help women connect and let them know they are not alone in this battle.  Because the first thoughts that we have are, "Why did this happen to me?, What am I going to do? How long will I live? What will happen to my family?"  We understand how they are feeling: the fear, and the unknown.  Through any type of life challenge we have to dig deep and find that inner strength that gets us through the turmoil of diagnosis, treatments and teaches us how to survive.

AABCA goals are to "Share, Support, and Survive" in the fight against cancer.  They participate in community health events year round to increase outreach, partnership and share information. In 2024 AABCA will celebrate its 34th year anniversary with cancer survivors, family, friends, supporters and community partners!

The Anika Foundation Supports the African American Breast Cancer Alliance and Pink Ladies MN.



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© 2023 by Quality Life MN. Created by NdidiMarie Grafix for The Anika Foundation.


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