By Deidre Williams
News Staff Reporter
Being diagnosed with cancer is scary, and the journey to wellness can be tough.
For Gina Davis, a three-year breast cancer survivor, educating others – especially African-Americans – about the disease is her therapy.
“I finished my journey, but every day I think about [the cancer] coming back. When I go to the doctor’s, I wonder will they find something, or if I get a pain I wonder if it’s coming back again,” said 47-year-old Davis, who started the Jes Breathe Cancer Awareness Group and “Walking 4 Hope” event in 2009.
From 9 a.m. to noon on Aug. 25, the group will hold its third annual “Walking 4 Hope” at Martin Luther King Park to raise awareness among African-Americans about all types of cancer. Davis, an East Parade Street resident, chose the location because it has special meaning to her. She calls it “her park.”
“I’ve attended other walks in Delaware Park, but we haven’t had any kind of cancer walks in MLK,” she said. “My reason for doing it is because the inner city lacks in so many things. With the awareness being there, when [African-Americans] see a face they know or can relate to, they think ‘I can beat it, too,’?” she said.
Since the inaugural walk in 2009, participation has grown steadily.
“The first year, about 30 people came. Last year, it kind of doubled. This year I’m expecting at least 100 people,” Davis said.
After being diagnosed in 2008, Davis had a lumpectomy at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and underwent two doses of chemotherapy at Buffalo Medical Group and two doses at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Arizona. She also received radiation treatment in Arizona.
When she was on the road to becoming cancer-free, one of her nurses in Arizona encouraged her to come up with her own words of comfort and encouragement to get her through each day. The suggestion became a lifeline for Davis.
“First I started saying ‘Jesus, Jesus, Jesus’ – then ‘breathe, breathe, breathe.’ I would tell myself that every day, and then I wrote it down on a pad and came up with Jes Breathe,” she said. “Jesus gives us every breath we take. Breathing comes so naturally. That’s what we need to do: take them deep breaths and get a grip. It’s all going to be all right.”
Davis was inspired to start the cancer awareness group by two friends she met at the cancer treatment center in Arizona. One died in 2009 from colon cancer. The other died from lung cancer last year. They are the reason Davis decided to raise awareness about all types of cancer, not just breast cancer.
Her friend, Calvin Johnson, had a brother who died of lung cancer about six years ago. Johnson, who lives on Moselle Street, believes in Davis’ vision and helped her coordinate the inaugural walk around MLK Park. He’s been lending a hand ever since.
“Helping the community – that’s the main thing,” Johnson said. “Just like they do in Delaware Park, we need to bring the awareness here.”
There is no registration fee to participate in “Walking 4 Hope.” To raise money to fund programs for cancer patients, the group sells black tote bags, drink holders and cancer awareness-inspired T-shirts. And a donation jar is set up at the registration table.
For more information on the walk or the group, call 533-1985.