Breast cancer survivor inspires hope in other women

October 27, 2011 (CHICAGO)

After being diagnosed with the disease last year, she is now using her story to teach women the importance of self-examination. She is using her talents to raise funds to help provide resources for women in need. It is how she shows her "spirit of giving."

It started as a hunch.

"Something just hit me in the head and said 'Just check.' And I put my hand on the side and I felt a little pebble," said Erika Bracey, breast cancer survivor.

A mammogram turned up nothing. An ultrasound also came out clear. But the then 39-year-old Bracey was insistent on further tests. Eventually, her worse fears were confirmed.

"She said, 'You know you have breast cancer,' and I thought to myself, 'Me, not me.' And I looked at my aunt and I saw that she was trying to hold back tears," Bracey said.

"I was very, very uncomfortable and very fearful, but all I could say was God walk with me and take care of my family," said Senorities Bracey, Erika's aunt.

Bracey's aunt was by her side through all of her treatments -- which included radiation therapy for 39 days in a row.

"A lot of people die from cancer," Senorities said ."I needed her to know the positive side, that there was light and that she was going to survive this."

Even though Bracey admits she had not done a breast self-exam in two years prior to finding her lump, she is passionate about talking to other women about the importance of being self-aware. She wears her conversation starters around her wrists.

"We decided that we were going to design breast cancer bracelets that we were going to wear ourselves. And then my mom and my aunt and some of my friends saw them and they were like oh, I love those," said Bracey.

Bracey wears the bracelets year-round and sells them to raise money for charity. According to the American Cancer Society, Caucasian women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, but African-American women are more likely to die from the disease and at a younger age.

"Hopefully, through my experiences, my friends, my family and other women that I have met and have touched, my experience taught them a lesson," said Bracey. "You have to go get tested. You have to check yourself. You have to educate yourself...You have to do it for you."

A portion of the proceeds from the breast cancer bracelets are being donated to the "What If... Carolyn Y. Adams Breast Cancer Foundation." Adams was the former superintendent of the Illinois Lottery. She succumbed to the disease in 2007 at the age of 44.

To order bracelets:

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