By Shirley Hawkins
LOS ANGELES — On behalf of Minority Awareness Month, Freddie Muse Jr., the founder of The Men’s Cancer Network, held an informational Brother’s Cancer Support Group zoom meeting July 22, highlighting an array of health services available in the community.
Among the topics discussed were assistance for people with lupus and cancer survivors as well as services for the homeless that offers housing, free groceries and vocational assistance.
Taking part in the meeting were Holly Brown, licensed esthetician and executive director and founder of Looking and Feeling Fab; Nicole Alana-Curry, a lupus survivor; and Andrea Harlin, executive director of the Aaron Community Cultural Center.
Muse is a prostate cancer survivor who founded the network after realizing there weren’t many resources for men of color. The Men’s Cancer Network is an organization where men help one another regarding education and prevention of cancer.
Diagnosed in 2007, Muse has endured countless procedures to help curtail his cancer.
Muse said that when he was diagnosed with cancer, “I was all alone in Northern California with none of my real friends or family around.”
“At first, I did not know what to do,” he added. “Then I prayed on it and within about five minutes all of my thoughts were getting busy. My mind said ‘Go to work on it — fight, fight, fight’ and that is what I did.
“I called my doctor the next day to ask what I could do. How do I fight this thing? The doctor said, ‘Please come in and talk to me.’ I did what I was told and the doctor gave me more options. I chose radiation as a treatment and had 42 treatments in 2007.
“I had to take a special treatment to heal my tissue that had been burned from radiation,” Muse continued. “Nearly two years after surgery, doctors wanted to replace my bladder. I am still passing blood, but I’m not bleeding as much as before. I still am passing scar tissue and blood clots.
“I just completed my 80th hyperbaric oxygen therapy and I’m fighting nausea and fatigue. The complications continue. I’m putting the work in and not quitting. We all have a journey and I hope it’s a journey to better health.
Over the years, The Men’s Cancer Network, Inc. has helped thousands of men connect with needed resources to help them with their cancer diagnosis.
“We want Black men to have great outcomes,we want them to live longer, we want them to celebrate birthdays with their families,” Muse said. “That’s important to me. There is abundant life after cancer.”
Another participant was Holly Brown, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and sarcoidosis. She said she developed a rash after undergoing chemotherapy infusions.
“When I reported the rash to my physicians, they responded with blank stares and silence,” she added.
Brown knew that other patients were suffering from the devastating side effects of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments and that it often led to isolation, low self-esteem and decrease in quality of life.
Determined to help herself and others, she founded Looking and Feeling Fab in 2013 for patients undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
“We educate estheticians and spa professionals on how to safely offer treatments to those with cancer and how to care for compromised skin,” Brown said.
“We specialize in treating skin reactions with therapeutic facials and massages for chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, melanoma, lung cancer, leukemia and immunotherapies,” she added. “We also treat reactions from dryness, hives, itchiness, scars, burns, etc. administered by oncology trained massage therapists.”
Brown said her company offers facials that help to combat the stress of cancer and alleviate side effects from treatment.
One of the testimonies was from a client who said that Brown was very helpful when it came to alleviating her discomfort from skin irritation.
“I told her about my condition,” the woman said. “She offered us chemical-free skin care products, facials and massages at no cost. Every person was impressed with her knowledge, generosity and compassion.
“Holly provided me with products to soothe the itching and burning,” the client added. “She gave me an essential oil that I call ‘Liquid gold’ that calms my skin in minutes. She gave me a cold roller for my skin when things became unbearable.
“After trying so many things with no relief, the products from [Looking and Feeling Fab] are helping me manage my condition,” the client said.
“We also offer five free treatments of home care,” Brown said. “We also have a survival program as well as a discount on products.
Brown added that it was important for cancer survivors to be careful when they are out in the sun.
“When you are out in the sun, you should reapply sunscreen after 30 minutes,” she said.
Another participant in the zoom was author and public speaker Nicole Curry, a lupus survivor who is the founder of Sistas of Strength, an online support community. Her primary goal is to offer support to other lupus sufferers and educate their families, friends and loved ones by giving them a glimpse into the everyday lives of the autoimmune illness while bringing awareness to invisible illnesses and otherwise hidden disabilities.
Curry talked about her journey with lupus after being diagnosed with the disease in 2015.
“Lupus can attack the organs,” she said. “I have suffered from inflammation of the brain, heart, kidney and lungs. I never know what my lupus will attack next. For me to even still be alive, the doctors said it was a miracle.
“Many people don’t know that there are five types of lupus,” Curry added.
Besides struggling with lupus, Curry said she also had to deal with COVID.
Curry has co-written an anthology titled “Shenomenal Woman” that features 23 women who share their testimonies of having lupus, as well.
“My chapter (in the book) leads up to my lupus journey from contracting long COVID in 2022,” she said.
“My mother’s caregiver sneezed on me and gave me COVID pneumonia. My mother contracted it, too, but she recovered.”
Curry said that she has experienced a new remission of lupus symptoms, “but I got back on my medication and it worked, praise God. My doctor gave me 500 ccs of steroids. The treatment nearly killed me, but I am a living miracle. I had to diet and exercise, which plays a huge role in health and wellness. I want to give someone else hope.”
The Aaron Community Cultural Center is the vision of Major Trooper Andrew Aaron, formerly of the Buffalo Soldiers who wanted to help the less unfortunate and offer wraparound services for those in need.
The nonprofit organization has helped hundreds of homeless and assisted them to recovery.
“We are a transformational organization because many of the people we assist were formerly homeless,” said Andrea Harlin, executive director of the center, which offers housing, food and clothing for seniors and the disabled.
”We also provide independent living,” Harlin said. “We have social interns who work with people regarding their finances and we also work in partnership with the Workforce Investment Group.
“We provide necessary housing assistance, employment training, life transformational skills, entrepreneurial and basic job skills training for job opportunities,” Harlin added.
She said the center continually reaches out to organizations for much-needed funding including grants and sponsorship as well as intern, community service and volunteers.
The center conducts a food giveaway every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to noon.
Shirley Hawkins is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers. She can be reached at email@example.com.