The National Anthem always captivates audiences on Independence Day. This year, organizers of the Seafair Family 4th fireworks celebration in Seattle chose a singer with a story of survival.
Bridgette Hempstead's voice carried her through some of the toughest years when she was battling breast cancer.
“Singing is a natural part of the healing, for those who sing, and for those who listen,” she said.
Hempstead is the founder of a group called Cierra Sisters. The non-profit helps provide support, advice, and resources for women of color and people from underserved communities who are fighting cancer.
Hempstead was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 35, but only after she insisted she get a mammogram. She says her doctor told her she didn't need one, because of a belief that African-American women her age were at a lower risk.
“I just felt this was a voice from God saying, ‘go get a mammogram and do it now,’ so I picked up the phone and made the appointment,” Hempstead said.
That scan, in 1996, revealed tumors. Since then, Hempstead has been counseling other women and traveling the world, telling others about the importance of screening. She visited a health conference in Africa, where she and her doctor from Seattle Cancer Care Alliance met other survivors and talked about ways to improve outcomes.
Cierra Sisters hosts monthly meetups for women who are fighting cancer, with a focus on African-Americans and patients who come from low-income households and underserved neighborhoods.
“When someone comes in and they are crying and they're like, ‘I'm afraid of dying,’ and you bring those perspectives in their face, and they're seeing other survivors that are there that have had a diagnosis much worse than them, they leave out with hope,” Hempstead said.
On this Independence Day, Hempstead can proudly say she is cancer-free. She's stronger than ever and eager to reach others with her message of resilience and determination.
Cierra Sisters will hold a community wellness festival in Seattle on Saturday, July 22, where doctors and health professionals will offer mammograms, diabetes testing, HIV testing, and other screenings.
For more information on Cierra Sisters and the wellness festival click here.