Cynthia Church, A Warrior in the Fight Against Breast Cancer

Cynthia Church, 63, a retired DuPont Co. computer analyst, launched Sisters on A Mission in 1995 after being diagnosed with her first of two bouts with breast cancer. She had noticed a lack of information and resources specific to black women and made it a “personal mission” to raise awareness.

Today, she and members of her organization give presentations at churches, community organizations and health fairs. They also hold workshops and support groups for breast cancer survivors and those struggling with the disease.

Church inspires others to volunteer through her own work, said Darlene Shorter, Sisters on a Mission president. Shorter met Church six years ago, following Shorter’s cancer diagnosis. The two spoke daily during Shorter’s treatment and Church answered questions about insurance and helped with her three children.
Florence Burton remembers the first time Cynthia Church approached her about joining a breast cancer support group for black women.

“I didn’t think I needed a support group,” said Burton, 68, of Wilmington. “Because I didn’t need to be sitting around whining and saying, ‘Oh, my name is Florence. I have cancer.’ ”

But Church, a two-time cancer survivor, flipped Burton’s excuse around. You might not need a support group, Church told Burton, but someone in the group might need you.

More than 10 years later, Burton not only is an active member but the group’s chaplain. And Church’s persistence has built a modest support group into Sisters on a Mission, a 200-member organization dedicated to educating black women about breast cancer.

Her efforts were recognized Wednesday when President Barack Obama awarded her and 12 others the 2010 Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian honor.

She was selected from 6,000 nominees for “exemplary deeds of service for her country and fellow citizens.”

“It means that all the years that the grass-roots organization has been going into the community, raising awareness about breast cancer, have not gone unnoticed,” Church said in an interview. “I think it’s a great honor that something like this is happening.”

By NICOLE GAUDIANO and WADE MALCOLM • The News Journal • August 5, 2010

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