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Talk and Walk Program Offers Bonding over Breast Cancer

Talk and Walk Program Offers Bonding over Breast Cancer

Photo caption: Jacqueline Beale is an advocate for breast cancer research and equity.

When she was 39, Jacqueline Beale discovered a lump in her right breast. It was malignant. Determined to get the best possible care, the Glenn Dale resident considered three local health care systems before choosing the Suburban Hospital Breast Center.

Beale had a lumpectomy, followed by radiation and chemotherapy, all at Suburban Hospital.

When the cancer returned 18 months later, she went back to Suburban for a mastectomy.

Since then, Beale, now 59, has been a national advocate for cancer research and equity, as well as a devoted supporter of the breast cancer program at Suburban, led by Pamela Wright, M.D.

In May, Beale, a project specialist with the Food and Drug Administration and adjunct professor at Bowie State University, spoke about her experiences and advocacy to about 15 women as part of the hospital’s Talk and Walk program, launched in 2015 by Jamie Borns, breast cancer nurse navigator.

Talk and Walk isn’t a support group, exactly. It provides opportunities for people who have had breast cancer to learn, socialize and get some exercise. “Several of our patients came to me and said they wanted a group to learn more about breast cancer and just get together,” says Borns.

The program, which is free and open to anyone who has been touched by breast cancer, meets the last Friday of every month at the Westfield Montgomery mall in Bethesda. It operates through a partnership between the hospital and Oasis, a national nonprofit that promotes lifelong learning and healthy aging.

Participants meet with a guest speaker for about an hour before walking together through the shopping center. “It turned out that one loop in the mall is a half-mile,” says Borns. “We decided after the talk we would walk in the mall, everyone at their own pace.”

Speakers have included nutritionists, researchers and tattoo artists.

Since March, because of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the gatherings have been virtual. During a Zoom call, Beale discussed her work as a member of the Suburban Hospital Foundation board and Maryland’s lead ambassador for the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit advocacy arm, the Cancer Action Network.

She also described how she is working to reduce high mortality rates for young African American women with breast cancer, including advocacy for more minority representation in cancer clinical trials.

Beale is also a Breast Ambassador for Suburban Hospital — one of three volunteers who meet with breast cancer patients post-surgery to answer questions and share their own experiences with the disease.

“I try to be uplifting,” she says. “When I was going through my journey, I didn’t want to hear anything negative.”

To find out more about the Talk and Walk program, visit events.suburbanhospital.org/ or call 301-896-6798.

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