RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Each year, about 6,000 women in North Carolina are diagnosed with breast cancer.
It’s the second leading cause of death for women in North Carolina, according to the state health department.
Now, a group of breast cancer survivors are coming together and working hard to raise awareness and hope.
It’s a sisterhood these women say they wouldn’t wish membership on anyone: a sisterhood of breast cancer survivors and fighters.
“I was diagnosed in 2014. My mom was a breast cancer survivor. Her mom was a breast cancer survivor,” said Kelli McNeil-Wilhelm, a Wake County survivor.
“I was diagnosed for my second time in 2018,” said Minister Tamekia Hunter Ross, who traveled from South Carolina to Raleigh on Saturday. “I’m currently being treated for stage 4. And there’s no cure for stage 4, so I require chemo treatment every three weeks.”
These self-proclaimed ‘breasties’ told CBS 17 they know the struggle many women face each and every day.
According to the North Carolina Health Department, there’s a one in eight chance women in the state will develop the disease.
“A lot of us have been touched by breast cancer. We know someone who has had breast cancer, or we have had breast cancer ourselves,” explained McNeill-Wilhelm.
On Saturday, in the middle of two gray concrete buildings on Fayetteville Street in Downtown Raleigh, there was a burst of pink and white.
It was a rally of support and information, as these women tried to educate others to be proactive.
“We’re stronger together,” said Ross.
“Early detection is what’s important. That’s why it’s important for women to have access to healthcare to do that. Women should do self-checks as well,” said McNeill-Wilhelm.
McNeill-Wilhelm told CBS 17 doctors caught her breast cancer early, thanks to an annual mammogram visit. She and Ross are just two women in a group of 21 survivors who have documented their experiences fighting breast cancer in a book.
They said the book “High Heels in Low Places” is a compilation of stories of bravery and strength, to help others feel loved and supported.
“To hear those amazing stories, from amazing women who come from all walks of life,” said McNeill-Wilhelm. “Their one common goal, the common denominator is to live. To continue to live. To continue to thrive. And to continue to be here for our families.”