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'It's a family' | Breast cancer survivor encourages women to find community

The "Sista Strut" holds events every year to raise money and awareness for breast cancer fighters and survivors in Louisville.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — At 52 years old, Erma Rice was diagnosed with breast cancer. Twenty-one years later, she's using her experience to support and encourage other women who have survived - and the ones who are still fighting.

Rice had to contact her doctor twice before she was diagnosed. When she went the first time, she was told she was fine. However, she continued to examine her own breasts and called the doctor again. Then, she received her diagnosis.

"When you're diagnosed with cancer, you feel so all alone," she said.

Rice said her family helped her make it through treatments. As a survivor, she continues to grow her support system by getting involved with community groups and events like the Sista Strut.

"It's a family. We feel like a family together," Rice said.

The Sista Strut is an annual walk that aims to raise money and awareness for breast cancer fighters and survivors, particularly women of color.

According to the National Institutes of Health, African American women are less likely than white women to be diagnosed with breast cancer at an early stage. They also have higher mortality rates and are more likely to be diagnosed before age 40.

Rice said dealing with a cancer diagnosis is a scary thing. But she hopes that women can find courage by looking outside their circumstances.

"You just got to step out there on faith and, if you want to live your life, raise your children and be with your family," she said. "I say, do it for them, if not for yourself."

The Sista Strut hosts events across the country. Two of those events are happening in Louisville on Wednesday, Oct. 21 and Thursday, Oct. 22. Both events are to encourage women to get their annual screenings and stress the importance of getting a mammogram at 40 (or 30 if a woman has a history of cancer in her family).

Wednesday's event is at St. Stephens from noon to 2 p.m. Thursday's is at the same time at the Baptist Health Floyd Cancer Center.

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