Two School District of Palm Beach County employees are part of a county-wide campaign to raise awareness about breast cancer and highlight the inspiring stories of breast cancer survivors. Deputy General Counsel Shawntoyia Bernard and Tanzanika Lillard, a Human Resources Analyst, will have their pictures on the “Shades of Pink” bus that features portraits of nine African-American survivors of breast cancer.
Palm Tran and Susan G. Komen South Florida rolled out the “Shades of Pink” bus which will be used on major Palm Beach county routes for the next four months, possibly being seen by more than 100,000 people every day.
Ms. Bernard was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32, with no prior history of breast cancer in her family. “[I had] no reason to think that something so life-threatening could reach me at such a young age,” she said. “At the time of my diagnosis, like many, I lived my life under the mistaken belief that breast cancer was something that impacted ‘older’ women.”
Thanks to her faith, the support of her family and friends, and the doctors and nurses who treated her, she has been cancer-free since September 2010. Overcoming cancer inspired her to help educate younger women about the realities of the disease.
That desire to advocate for breast cancer survivors led to her selection for the “Shades of Pink” bus, following an invitation from one of her previous colleagues and former School District attorney Kalinthia Dillard. Being passionate about the cause and vocal about her experiences made her a natural fit for the initiative.
“I was so thrilled to be chosen for this campaign,” Bernard said. “The idea that myself and eight other women were going to be featured to shine a spotlight on breast health in the African-American community was an amazing feeling and I was so honored to be chosen to bring awareness about an often forgotten group of survivors.”
Ms. Lillard was similarly inspired to take part in the campaign following her breast cancer diagnosis. She has been cancer-free for two years and previously participated in the Ford Warriors in Pink initiative which helps thousands of patients, survivors, and co-survivors affected by the disease.
“I am honored to be a part of bringing awareness to all women, especially women of color,” Lillard said. “I want women to know you don’t have to be afraid of a breast cancer diagnosis. I choose to find the beauty in saving myself from something so ugly. Part of that beauty is helping other women who look like me.”
Through her participation in the campaign, Ms. Lillard wants to encourage women to be their own best advocate and to know that self-examinations are an important first line of defense, a sentiment echoed by Ms. Bernard.
“I want younger women especially to be self-aware of their bodies and not take their youth for granted in this fight,” Bernard said. “I want them to be proactive about their self-examinations as well as their scheduled annual breast exams with their doctors. Most importantly, I want all women to be paying attention to their bodies and the messages it sends. Pay attention to your gut!”