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Jefferson Award Winner Uses Cancer Battle As Inspiration To Help Others

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Jefferson Award Winner Gail Bishop. (CBS)

Jefferson Award Winner Gail Bishop. (CBS)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – A San Francisco woman isn’t letting cancer treatment slow her down. In fact, this week’s Jefferson Award winner is still doing everything she can to help others in the same position.

At the Move to Improve exercise class at Bayview Hunter’s Point YMCA, Gail Bishop stretched alongside her classmates. It’s hard to believe that the 12-year breast cancer survivor endured her most recent chemotherapy treatment the day before. It’s her fourth round.

“I’m not a person to sit around and say, ‘Oh I have breast cancer, and blah, blah, blah,” she said with a laugh.

Bishop was diagnosed with cancer in 2000. Immediately, she found the more questions she had about the disease, the more she realized there weren’t enough resources in her community.

“I wanted to know why we, as African-American women, didn’t want to talk about this disease,” Bishop explained.

So 12 years ago, Bishop launched the first San Francisco chapter of the “Sisters Network” in the Bayview. It’s part of a national organization of African American breast cancer survivors.

Bishop said, “I wanted an organization where, yes, we would do things that can help us grow, things that can help us, teach us to eat better, teach us that we need to exercise, things mentally, you know — that we can do to help ourselves.”

In addition to their weekly support meetings, Gail teamed up with Michael Bennett at the Bayview YMCA. Together they’ve held health fairs, education classes, and block walks to raise awareness.

“Gail brings a lot of energy,” Bennett said. “She started bringing her support network sisters to the table, so they started getting involved with the YMCA, coming to the nutritional classes, and started exercising.”

Cancer survivor Margie Cherry has been with Gail since the beginning.

“Sisters Network gives you an opportunity to meet other women, to be encouraged that there is life after the diagnosis,” Cherry said. “And you don’t have to be ashamed.”

You only have to look to the chapter president to understand it’s working.

“She gives hope. She’s inspiration that you can keep living, that you can keep going,” Cherry said.

Bishop added, “There’s so many women that have so many different issues, and I know you can’t save the world, and I know you can’t get all those issues, but if we can just get some of it, we doing something.”

So for helping women in her community understand their disease and creating a way to support them through their treatment, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Gail Bishop.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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