| Kaari Lowe, former president of the African Women's Association, couldn';t start giving back soon enough after being treated for breast cancer. A native of Kenya, Lowe moved to Madison in April 1995 with her husband Richard. Less than one year later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. "I felt the lump and went to the doctor and was diagnosed with breast cancer," Lowe said in an interview with The Capital City Hues. "Fortunately, it was in the first stage and I had my surgery the following month. In January 1997, I started my chemotherapy, which went on for 4.5 months. After that, I went for radiation. That was completed in July 1997. As of now, it's been 10 years. It has been in remission for 10 years and I am a 10- year survivor. I'm keeping my fingers crossed."
While still undergoing treatment, Lowe participated in her first Race for the Cure to raise funds for the Susan Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. She is a 10-year survivor and a 10-year participant in the 5K walk. For the first two years, Lowe walked as an individual. "The third year, I realized that CUNA Mutual Group, where I work, had a team called the Credit Union Spirit Team," Lowe said. "That includes CUNA Mutual Group, World Council of Credit Unions and CUNA and Affiliates."
After that experience, Lowe got the African Women's Association involved. "It was very encouraging to see their interest," Lowe reflected. "Later on when I became president of the African Women's Association (AWA), we as an association do fund-raising each year. I thought I would use that platform to raise funds for a very good cause as well as have the fundraiser as a part of the activities of the group. It was very, very encouraging. We started participating as a team in 2005." In 2007, 45 people signed up and 20 people walked under the banner of the AWA.
The Race for the Cure is more than a fundraiser for Lowe. It is a one-day support group. "I was very encouraged today because there were survivors who have survived for 40 years," Lowe said. "That was very encouraging and inspirational to me. It feels wonderful to have all of these people walking."
Lowe emphasized that the earlier breast cancer is discovered, the better it is in terms of treatment. Yet, some cultural norms may prevent the kind of discussion and education that is needed to make women more aware of what they need to do to detect breast cancer and get treatment. "I know as Africans, it's not usual to talk about our personal business, especially illnesses," Lowe confided. "Even now, we have some African women survivors who do not want to be recognized. This is because we feel we will jinx ourselves or it's just not spoken of. You talk about your illnesses in your family group. But you don't talk about it with other people outside. I don't know if it's because of the fear that people will think less of you if you have a condition, but that's just how it is."
For Lowe, who still worries that her cancer could come back, the community support is important. "On the back of the pink t-shirts that were worn by the survivors today, it said 'I walk because of those who have walked before me. And also for those who walk beside me,'" Lowe said. "It was very sweet." And for Lowe, it was very sweet to have the members of the African Women's Association walking beside her as she does her part to find a cure for breast cancer.
|African Women's Association participates in Race for the Cure
A race to save lives
By Jonathan Gramling