Black History Month – Our History Will Be What We Make of It

Wendy Shurelds is passionate about living life to the fullest and turning every bad situation into a positive experience. In 2009, Wendy lost her mom in a workplace fatality, she found herself speaking in front of congress fighting for workplace safety and along with United Support and Memorial for Workplace Fatalities (USMWF) she helped write the Family Bill of Rights, which was adopted by OSHA.  “I wanted my mom’s voice to be heard and I didn’t want other families to endure a tragedy like mine.”

When she was diagnosed with Stage 2B breast cancer there was no doubt she’d fight it because in the end, she’d want to help other women in need. Komen San Diego became a resource for Wendy after she was laid off and had no health insurance. She attended one of Komen San Diego’s mobile mammogram events. Now, she’s the Community Resource Advocate for Susan G. Komen San Diego’s Circle of Promise. She advocates for women in the African American community by bringing awareness and encouraging them to take charge of their health. “I was diagnosed at an early stage, early detection is key – among other factors.” Research shows African American women have a 41 percent higher mortality rate than their Caucasian counterparts, while some factors can be linked to genetic differences, others relate to lifestyle choices, access to care and later stage of breast cancer detection. “I take my experience to the African American community, where there are many cultural barriers and myths that stop them from going to the doctors, I’ve met women who’ve never had a mammogram.” Wendy says she uses her journey as a breast cancer survivor to educate people and tell them that they have nothing to fear. Komen San Diego’s Circle of Promise is working to change the reality of cultural disparities through intensive peer-to-peer education and making sure medical services are provided where these women live, work, shop, pray or play.

“When it comes to our health, we have to change our thinking cycle and it starts by knowing what’s going on with our body – get a screening mammogram. If you are diagnosed with breast cancer it is not a death sentence, Komen San Diego is here to provide the resources that will help them.” Wendy’s biggest supporters were her daughter Sheena, her dad Mel, and her boyfriend Ernie. They were by her side every step of the way.

“Life is very short, I don’t take life for granted anymore, I live my life moment by moment and I try to have fun and be happy. Fighting for these women is my passion. When it comes to changing history, Rosa Parks inspires me because she was a pillar of strength. I feel that I have endured so much in my life, losing my mom and dad and having to fight for my life. I can still smile and dedicate my heart to all women.”

Full 2015 Community Profile