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Praise in Pink service

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Praise in Pink organisers from left: Alberta Dyer-Tucker, Annette Simmons and Sasha Zuill-Lambert (Photograph supplied)

Being told you have cancer is never easy to digest — even as a strong believer in Christ.

Such was the case for Valerie Smith in late 2013.

Because breast cancer ran in her family, she had been faithful in having her mammograms.

“I believe that most women when they go for their mammogram have that little touch of anxiety, so when they called me back in for another test I knew something must have been detected,” she said.

“After the biopsy, I was more or less mentally prepared when they delivered the news that I had stage 1 breast cancer. There was a little bit of fear, but I think that’s normal. My faith was definitely something that saw me through and my trust in God also increased at this time during my journey.”

Ms Smith’s church, Mt Zion AME, will tomorrow host “Praise In Pink”, a service in celebration of cancer survivors like herself.

Organisers Alberta Dyer-Tucker, Annette Simmons and Sasha Zuill-Lambert came up with the idea for the annual event a few years ago.

Mrs Dyer-Tucker had a close friend who succumbed to breast cancer in her early 30s and her mother battled with two bouts of the disease in her 70s.

“When you are going through cancer yourself, or watching someone else close to you go through it, there can be a lot of ‘why’ moments,” she said.

“With my mom’s illness, we asked all types of questions like, ‘Why God are you doing this to her at this age and stage of her life when she should be enjoying herself?’

“However, my mother is a woman of faith herself and we became more focused on praying as a family.”

She and Mrs Simmons and Mrs Zuill-Lambert decided to form a support group, Girls of Pearls, to help meet cancer sufferers’ spiritual and practical needs.

They rally to raise cash whenever they’re made aware of anyone dealing with cancer, often paying their bills if they are too sick to work or are struggling with high medical costs.

Rev Dr Jahkimmo Smith, the pastor at Mt Zion AME Church, came on board to get the wider church community involved.

The congregation comes dressed in pink to celebrate the lives of survivors one Sunday each October, in honour of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“We recognise the journey with cancer isn’t an easy one. Our aim is to get all the survivors together. We have between eight and ten people who have survived cancer at our church at the moment, and we present them with gift bags.

The whole service is meant to be a celebration of life because we realise how fragile life can be.

“All of us know someone or are related to someone that has been affected by cancer, so we just want to celebrate them and make them feel special. We recognise it’s a hard thing and, if your faith pulls you through, that it’s a major blessing.”

Following the message and worship, there is a time of fellowship with themed refreshments like pink lemonade and pink cookies. An offering during the service goes to organisations and individuals fighting cancer.

Ms Smith encourages people to come out to tomorrow’s service at 10am.

“It’s a time where we place emphasis on the survivors to encourage them and pray for them,” she said.

“It’s a time of thanksgiving and to remember everything that God has brought us through. It’s a very joyful and upbeat celebration.

“Mt Zion is a church where the Holy Spirit reigns so we always come away feeling uplifted.

“I’ve attended there for the last 12 years and just to know my pastor and church have been holding me up in prayer while I went through chemotherapy was very positive and a good feeling knowing I had that support. It’s a very powerful thing.”

Valerie Smith battled breast cancer in 2013 (Photograph supplied)
Helping cancer sufferers: a group shot from a past Praise in Pink service (Photograph supplied)