/ How the Pink Shawl Initiative Benefits Wisconsin Women

How the Pink Shawl Initiative Benefits Wisconsin Women

The Wisconsin Pink Shawl Initiative has a mission of reducing breast cancer in American Indian communities through education, advocacy, and service, and to increase the number of American Indian women accessing screening opportunities. Charlene Smith, a Registered Nurse, ABCD Mentor, and Active Member of the Wisconsin Pink Shawl Initiative, shares her breast cancer story:

In August of 2018 I celebrated my first anniversary as a "thriving" survivor of breast cancer!  My mom had breast cancer when she was 69 years old; she was the first person, that we know of, in our family who was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy and radiation treatments, all followed by five years of hormonal treatment.


In August of 2017, at 68 years old, I received my diagnosis of Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. I was totally surprised! My treatments differed from Mom's. I had a lumpectomy (so thankful not a mastectomy) and chemotherapy infusions, followed by 30 radiations in six weeks; I finished all surgeries and treatments in seven months with no hormonal medicines, and I only minimally experienced some the expected side effects.


It all definitely changed my life, making me really appreciate the time I spend with family & friends. My greatest "therapy" that keeps my brain sane is doing my Native beadwork.  Even though I'm a trained Conversation Leader with the Susan G. Komen program and Kohl's sponsors, it did not fully prepare me for this life experience.


As an American Indian woman of the Wisconsin Oneida Nation, statistics show that Native women are the population that has poorer outcomes, due to delayed entry into the healthcare system for services, which contributes to a high mortality rate.  I am also a member of the Wisconsin Pink Shawl Initiative. We, as Native women, present to other Native women throughout Wisconsin, about breast health and breast cancer. We do make an impact! There is life after cancer!

To learn more about the Wisconsin Pink Shawl Initiative, visit

 The WCA Group Health Trust was created when county officials joined together to create an employee benefit program that would meet the unique needs of local governments. Today, their founding principles still remain at the core. WCA Group Health Trust is governed by officials from participating units of government and school districts, making the organization more responsive to local healthcare needs.

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