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    Dr. E. M. Abdulmumin (standing at right), one of the speakers at the Healthy Heritage Wellness Conference held Saturday, July 26, talks with Leura Valeriano, Health Education Assistant Elida Drachenberg and Clarese Hill at the American Cancer Society’s information booth before the conference began.

    Nikia Hammonds-Blakely, keynote speaker for the Healthy Heritage Wellness Conference held Saturday, July 26, told of her experience with breast cancer when she was just 16 years old.

    (Riverside, Calif.) –Cancer, cardiovascular disease and bad relationships.

    These are serious health problems, but they can be avoided. And for those who already face these and other problems affecting their body, mind and spirit, help is available.

    That’s the message the organizers of the Healthy Heritage Wellness Conference believe more than 350 participants took home with them after the all-day event Saturday, July 26.

    “I was humbled and overjoyed by the turnout,” said organizer Phyllis Clark, who created the event four years ago. “Some of these people have come all four years. We truly have a following. I am grateful for them, and for the sponsors. They have consistently believed in the multicultural community that attends this conference.”

    To inspire others to take charge of their own health, the Healthy Heritage Wellness Conference brought in as its keynote speaker Nikia Hammonds-Blakely, a representative of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. The 30-year-old Hammonds-Blakely told about her experience with breast cancer 14 years ago, when she was in high school.

    “To say that diagnosis changed my life is an understatement,” Hammonds-Blakely said. “It changed my life forever.”

    Like most girls, Hammonds-Blakely didn’t think much beyond boys, clothes, and who she would go with to the junior prom when she was 16 years old. But when both her own self-exam and her doctor’s clinical breast exam revealed a suspicious lump, things changed.

    “My doctor said ‘It’s probably nothing,’ but wanted me to have a biopsy just in case,” Hammonds-Blakely said. “When we got the results of the biopsy back, it showed I not only had cancer, but a rare and extremely aggressive type.”

    “It was too much to wrap my mind around,” she said. “I went home daily feeling like a monster. I wondered who would ever love me? Would I ever get married? Would I ever have children? And if so, would I be able to nurse them?”

    Hammonds-Blakely had a strong Christian faith before she contracted breast cancer, and it was by relying on this faith she got through this most difficult time in her life, she said. Faith was also what motivated her to use the difficulties she had gone through to help others.

    “I realized no one ever knows when we will leave this earth,” she said. “Our responsibility while we are here is to manage our life and let it have purpose to help someone else. For as long as I am going to be here, I am going to use my life to the maximum.”

    With this newfound motivation, Hammonds-Blakely went from an average student to fifth in her graduating class in high school. She has now obtained a Master’s Degree in marketing, and is working on her Ph.D. in organizational management.

    This young woman also is a member of the Susan G. Komen’s Young Woman’s Advisory Council, a position that gives her numerous opportunities to let women know that breast cancer can happen at a young age. It also gave her the opportunity to travel to Nigeria, where she and her mother were able to bless many teen-age girls who had recently survived breast cancer with 750 prosthetic bras, and encouragement from a “sister” who had been there.

    “That was one of the most profound experiences of my life,” she said.

    Another speaker for the event was Dr. E.M. Abdulmumin, professor, youth advocate, and karate instructor. He urged the largely African-American audience to consider the African lifestyle as one that is healthier and more balanced than that of Americans, and to make changes

    “Our parents fought hard to get us out of slavery,” he said. “Now we have a new kind of slavery. As our children have moved away from their values, and their culture, they have become slaves to peer pressure.”

    In the afternoon, a panel of experts gave their advice for a healthier lifestyle. These included Dr. Steven Barag, who presented information about preventing and curing hypertension and other cardiovascular disease; Dr. David Williams, who gave information about his specialty, preventative medicine and how it can help people stay healthy; marriage and family counselor Tiombe Preston, who taught 12 Commandments for Emotional Health; author and college professor Charles Fossett, who offered his sage advice on relationships and Pastor Gerald Hightower of Purpose Center International, who provided the audience a spiritual perspective on finding one’s purpose in life.

    The free Healthy Heritage Wellness Conference was organized by a committee which includes staff members from Riverside County Public Health Department; the American Cancer Society; the Southern California Witness Project, a breast cancer awareness group; Inland Agency; Dameron Communications and many volunteers.

    Sponsors for the 2008 Healthy Heritage Wellness Conference included The American Cancer Society, Pharmaceutical and Research Manufacturers of America (PhARMA), Southern California Edison, the Riverside Community Health Foundation, Inland Agency, Dameron Communications, Black Voice News, Brothers and Sisters in Action (BASIA), Abbott Vascular and Novartis.

    These sponsorships allow the conference organizers to put the event on at no charge.

    For more information about the Healthy Heritage Wellness Conference call (951) 565-4431 or e-mail hhwcmovement@yahoo.com.

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