Feature Fridays| Dr. Andrene Taylor of ZuriWorks for Women’s Health

It’s Friday!!! And that means its time for us to get into another feature :) This week’s feature really hits home with me & I hope after you read it will open your heart & minds. Enjoy!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Thank you so much for coming onto the diary to share yourself & the wonderful organization you are building. So without further ado, please share a little about yourself.

I am scholar. By training, I am a researcher. I love learning. It excites me. My research is on African American and African diaspora aesthetics and culture. My research allows me to explore the complexity of beauty. I believe this concept overflows into the work that I doing now. Disease is an ugly thing, but if you think about how diseases work and how the body functions, it’s really beautiful. I like challenges. Recently, I decided that I want to do triathlons. I have friends who triathlons all the time. And, I was like, if they can do it, I can too. But, I don’t know how to swim. I spent almost the whole summer in the pool.  It was scary. I was definitely terrified of the deep end. I got over it, though. Today, I can swim. I love cooking for my friends and family. Cooking is my hobby. I have a serious respect for food and what it can do for the body. I enjoy finding new recipes, eating at new places, and trying new foods. Ironically, Growing up, I hated cooking. I am the middle child, and I often had to prepare meals for my family and friends. Today, all I want to do is cook for my family. Some of the best times I have are at the table with family and friends. I cherish my relationships. I have 10, 15, and 20-year friendships. I love having people in my life that have watched me grow. Whether it’s my childhood best friends, my best friends from high school, college, or my first “real” job, my friends are wonderful reminders of the loving support that make my hectic life manageable. These relationships ground me and remind me of whom I really am: A simple person who finds beauty and joy in the simple things.

What was the reason for starting ZuriWorks for Women’s Health & what is your community mission?

I had no intention of starting ZuriWorks for Women’s Health. While I was in the hospital a few months ago, I had the idea to do a project, It’ll Grow Back™.  My hair had fallen out, and I was devastated. I talked to my stylist, Felicia Leatherwood, and she told me how to take care of my hair and scalp. I also did my own research.

Just as I loving grew my hair, I loving began to take care of my chemo-induced bald head. As I was doing so, the thought to do It’ll Grow Back™ came to me. My plan was to do one It’ll Grow Back™ event and move on. However, as I began to develop, plan, and execute It’ll Grow Back™, I realized that there was a need for more programs like It’ll Grow Back™. By 2045 more than half of the women in the country will identify as a member of a racial or ethnic minority group. Across the broad range of cancers ethnic and minority women are not doing well. I believe that ethnic and racial minority women experience higher incidences and morbidity from cancer because the messages of cancer prevention, awareness, and screening are not culturally attuned to their interests and needs. ZuriWorks for Women’s Health hopes to fill this void by creating culturally powerful and messages that appeal to diverse groups of women, letting them know cancer prevention is accessible and achievable.

I believe every woman, regardless of her age, geographic location, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, and so on has the right to achieve her full health potential. ZuriWorks for Women’s Health was founded to help every woman reach her highest health potential.

How has the effects of your cancer diagnosis changed your outlook on life?

After all these treatments and after all this time, I thought I would have become the Buddha. I thought that I would be calm and nothing would bother me. I wouldn’t have any upsets, disappointments, or resentments. I thought I would have learned to take it easy and not be so hard on myself. To a certain degree, I have learned to be easier on myself and to temper my expectations of others, which is usually the source of my discontent. I love to laugh, especially at my own jokes. I love to have fun and play. But, to my surprise, I still get angry, disappointed, and resentful. Basically, I am still a human being with complex emotions. Each day, I get better at accepting people, places, and things at they are. Acceptance is the key to my happiness. Cancer has helped me understand that concept a little better each day. The more I accept life on life’s terms the more content I am and the closer I am to being the Buddha.

My cancer diagnosis has also pushed me to live a fuller life. It has propelled me go for more in everything that I do. For example, during my fist diagnosis and treatment, I was finishing up my Masters degree. It was Spring 2004, I was 25; I was finishing up my thesis and preparing to begin the doctorate program in the fall. While on the chemo chair, I decided that I was really going to do the doctorate program. I was going to be a scholar, which meant conferences and publications. After the stem cell transplant, I decided I wanted to take my exercise routine to the next level. To stay fit and manage my weight, I’ve always regularly worked out. Recently, I decided I wanted to be an athlete again. I want to compete in triathlons. This is amazing to me because I had successful high school and college career as a sprinter. The thought of running five, ten, or fifteen miles never crossed my mind. Now, I just want to do it! Why not? What else am I doing? Other people do triathlons all the time. Why can’t I? Definitely, the cancer diagnosis has helped me to live a fuller life. In many ways, this is one—and there are many—great gifts cancer has given me.

What advice do you have for women going through the various stages of cancer?

I don’t like giving women, or anyone else for that matter, advice about cancer. I don’t think that there is any right thing to say. Everyone’s cancer journey is so personal and unique. I believe everyone has the possibility to heal and that their healing is specific to their experiences and circumstances. I’d just encourage women to figure out what healing means for them. Research your healing choices and make informed choices about your care.

The truth is I don’t know what to say to someone who is going through cancer. No one could ever say the “right” thing to me. Their advice was always off base. Perhaps, another truth is that there is no advice to give anyone. Going through cancer, for me, was about and still about, learning to listen to myself. Cancer isn’t pretty. It takes people to dark, deep places. It is uncharted territory. I believe every woman has the capacity to navigate that unchartered terrain of a cancer terrain. Every woman has the ability to figure it out on her own. She does not need anything or anyone outside of her to do so. Perhaps, rather than give advice, I’d like to remind women of their own strength. I’d like to remind them that they have the power; they are the power. I’d also like to remind them that in many cases, cancer is survivable. So, if it’s possible to survive—survive.

In regards to ZuriWorks, what is on horizon for your organization & how can people get involved?

Expect to see wonderful programs under the banner of It’ll Grow Back™. The next program in the It’ll Grow Back™ socio-educational cancer workshop series is Protective Styles: Protect Your Hair, Protect Your Health, Sunday, October 21, 2012. This workshop is going to be great time. Folks are going to have fun while learning new information about how to safeguard and improve their health. Plus we are going to have great giveaways and auction items. People can get involved with ZuriWorks for Women’s Health by donating, liking our page on Facebook, signing up to be a Health Ambassador, and volunteering for our next event.

I’m happy to announce that you will now be the Health & Well-Being Editor for the diary! What can the readers expect from your column?

Readers can expect to get information about how to safeguard and improve their health. I believe that prevention is the best cure. There is definitely going to be articles and information about how to take care of yourself and powerfully live the life you’ve always wanted. I believe in small, incremental changes over time; so I’m going to offer insights on how to create the radical possibility of fulfilling your health potential. And, because we never do anything alone, I am definitely going to create interactive forums for accountability and check-in.

We can’t prevent everything from happening to us; however, we can do our best to take care of our bodies and minds in case something does happen to us. I am a researcher and scholar by training. I like to stay on top of the latest advances in health and wellness.  My goal is to meld my experience with evidenced-based knowledge about health and wellbeing. Individuals do not manage their health in a vacuum. Therefore, I will explore all aspects of health: mental, emotional, spiritual, etc. Our health care is framed in a system of laws and policies. It’s important to know what’s going on the legislative level of health care and how laws impact our health and wellness. I also like fun. So, expect to see fun stuff in the column too. Just stay tuned and enjoy the ride with me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Did you enjoy this week’s feature? I hope so! If you would like to find out more about Dr. Andrene & ZuriWorks check here. Don’t forget if you would like to be featured just shoot me an e-mail: jamila@naturalgalsdiary.com & we will make it happen :) Enjoy your weekend ♥

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