Author shares her fighting spirit in Gary visit
BY ANTHONY KADARRELL THIGPEN Post-Tribune correspondent March 21, 2014 1:14PM
Ann Peters, president of Pink Ribbon Society, has been a breast cancer survivor for 37 years and supported author Nikia Hammonds-Blakely during her local release of "The Fight" because the black community must be made aware of free services to fight breast cancer, she said. | Anthony KaDarrell Thigpen~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 24, 2014 6:40AM
GARY — Nikia Hammonds-Blakely, of Dallas, redirected local supporters to Amazon.com when she sold out of books during her recent debut release of “The Fight,” a tale about her battle to overcome breast cancer, divorce and a host of other medical issues.
More than 250 women — from political leaders and community organizers to business owners and others — used the event for networking and socializing.
New Hope Church was transformed into a women’s resource center during the three-hour event. The Gary Area Vet Center, Methodist Hospital’s mammography department, Ivy Tech Community College and Universal Fitness educated women about health and wellness.
“It’s time for women to stop taking care of everyone else without caring for themselves,” Focus on You health and wellness director Lois Wagner-Glover said.
The Gary Health Department conducted blood pressure tests and provided general information. In addition, Alicia Mayo, of the Mayo Clinic Women’s Outreach, and Deborah Delk, director of Mother’s Love, a teen mentorship program, provided brochures from various entities.
“I’m so glad I came,” Lewshia Berry said. “I actually got some really good information.”
Literature from St. Mary Hospital, St. Catherine Hospital, Planned Parenthood, Regional Mental Health and other resources proved useful to attendees.
“We have free services that women in the black community need to be made aware of,” said Ann Peters, president of Pink Ribbon Society. “I’ve survived breast cancer for 37 years.”
The audience stood, applauding, upon hearing that.
Hammonds-Blakely, 36, is also a survivor.
“I was only 16 years old when I was left disfigured after the partial removal of one breast,” Hammonds-Blakely said. “I was diagnosed a second time at age 34 and underwent a full mastectomy.”
Her 163-page book takes readers on a 12-round journey from breast cancer, divorce and obesity, to an abortion, a full mastectomy and more.
Hammonds-Blakely conquered the psychological contenders that previously bruised her with low self-esteem.
A still-quiet audience clenched every word of her 30-minute testimony — many with tears flowing as they listened to the grueling details of her fight to live.
Local female poets Elana Love and Ethel Walton-Fields marked the occasion with lyrics that lifted the spirits of struggling women.
Sieon Roberts Ministries, a community initiative and Literacy in Motion publishing company, funded the event that welcomed healthy resources for women.
Denny Finnearty, owner of Universal Fitness in Merrillville, offered weight-loss tips, alternatives for healthy lifestyles, and discounted gym memberships.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, 5th District councilwoman Kimberly Robinson, and Northwest Indiana Urban League President Vanessa Allen joined forces to support healthy choices.
Afterward, Hammonds-Blakely, dressed in a boxing robe and pink boxing gloves, stepped behind the ropes of a mock boxing ring to promote “The Fight.” In addition to her debut book, she released a new CD single titled “Champion.”
“I’m a champion, there’s a fight in me, just you wait and see, I’m a champion,” was the hook that added an extra dose of inspiration to a crowd of cheering book buyers.