By Michaela Gibson Morris, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Aug. 24--TUPELO -- More than 350 Sisters Network supporters praised God and lifted up breast cancer survivors Saturday.

"I thank God it didn't take my life," said keynote speaker and breast cancer survivor Shondia McFadden-Sabari. "It didn't take my self-esteem."

Sabari, who had a bilateral mastectomy after being diagnosed with cancer in both breasts at the age of 36, had the pink-clad crowd laughing and testifying with the story about her journey through breast cancer and into advocacy.

"We've got to love our own selves," said Sabari, who elected not to have reconstructive surgery or wear a prothesis.

Tupelo radio personality Harold Turrentine delivered the survivor's testimony for the lunch at the BancorpSouth Conference Center.

His father had been diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer, and Turrentine talked about how he resisted going to the doctor when he knew something wasn't right in his own body. He, too, had breast cancer, but it was caught at Stage I, and surgery was able to remove it.

"It's time to be wise and go get checked out," said Turrentine, who urged both men and women to be proactive with their health.

The eighth annual pink ribbon lunch supports the Tupelo chapter of the African-American breast cancer survivors organization and its work. Breast cancer survivor Sandra Triplett of Tupelo said the Sisters Network support group was there for her when she was diagnosed in March 2013.

"It encouraged me," said Triplett, because she was surrounded by women who had survived 10 and 20 years. "I know I can do this. All these people are living through it."

With the money raised from the 2013 pink ribbon lunch, grants and other fundraising efforts, Sisters Network was able to connect more than 200 women without health insurance with mammograms.

Preliminary fundraising figures for Saturday's event were approaching $10,000, said Norma Derring, chapter president.

"It's been wonderful," of the increased support from the community and local churches, Derring said.

At Saturday's lunch, Jaklyn Mayfield Walker was recognized for her outstanding community service, for her work on behalf of Sisters Network at Mt. Sinai Baptist Church, where her husband Lowell Walker serves as pastor.

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Allison Harris was recognized for her work as an associate member of the Tupelo chapter.

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(c)2014 the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (Tupelo, Miss.)

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