On World Cancer Day : Big Queen Dianne Conquers Breast Cancer as an Advocate

Dianne Honore Destrehan’s breast cancer diagnosis came in 2012, one month after her daughter’s college graduation. As a nurse and an Historic Interpreter, she used those skills to help her navigate an often confusing health care system as an informed self-advocate. “I have a fighting, nothing-can-stop-me spirit so I went to most appointments and procedures alone,” recalls Dianne. “My family was very encouraging. My sister gave me one phrase I still repeat to myself often: ‘The sun will always come out again tomorrow.’”

Dianne sees the world through a different lens since her cancer diagnosis more than ten years ago. She is stronger and tends to herself more. This began with founding a new group of Black Masking Baby Dolls after her double mastectomy. “It was my way of pushing my depression and new awkward body image out of darkness into a spotlight of awareness. Today, I am a Black Masking Indian Big Queen, transcending all cancer’s rubble to face life’s challenges head-on,” she proudly states.

Amazon Queens

Photo credit © Kim Welsh. Maroon Queen Reesie and Amazon Queen Dianne participate in a dove release ceremony to celebrate health and survival.

Breast Cancer Louisiana

Did you know?

According to the Louisiana Cancer Prevention and Control Programs, breast cancer is the MOST frequently diagnosed cancer among Louisiana women and is the 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the death rate for breast cancer in USA is 19.4 per 100,000 women. In Louisiana, the mortality rate is 21.9 per 100,000 women.

Mammogram Appointment

Consider this your friendly reminder. Regular mammograms save lives. Make a plan today to get screened.

“Louisiana has one of the highest mortality rates due to breast cancer, underscoring the need for all of us to stay focused on early detection,” states Dr. Courtney N. Phillips, Louisiana Department of Health Secretary. “We are all busy and we know many women may have missed their routine health screenings during the pandemic.”

The American Cancer Society recommends that women 45 – 54 should get mammograms every year, while those 55 and older can switch to every 2 years or continue yearly screenings.

To help lower your risk of breast cancer, you should maintain a healthy weight, stay active and lower alcohol consumption.

Maroon Queen Cherice Harrison Nelson : An Ambassador for Breast Cancer Survival

Maroon Queen Cherice Harrison-Nelson marked the end of the Carnival season each year with a mammogram in March. In 2011, an abnormality was discovered. In late June, 2011 she got a phone call that would change her life while she was shopping at a grocery store on the Westbank. “The nurse who shared my diagnosis with me sounded as though she was speaking Charlie Brown talk,” recalls Cherice. “I was initially confused and apprehensive, but being an educator assisted me with researching treatment options and inquiring about specifics related to recovery time, lifestyle changes, and other quality of life issues.” Professionally, Cherice is a certified Gifted and Talented Educator with an MA from Xavier University and Fulbright Studies at University of Senegal at St. Louis and University of Ghana at Accra.

“My mother and my aunt, Bishop Efzelda Booker Coleman, literally laid hands on me while praying for a full restoration of health and well-being. It was very comforting and very much an African Diaspora spiritual practice.” Cherice says. Her mother, Herreast J. Harrison, accompanied her to her chemo treatments. Her son, Big Chief Brian Nelson, drove her to radiation treatment appointment. “My support system during my cancer journey included family members, who were breast cancer survivors,” recalls Cherice. “They gave me the fortitude to endure with affirmations of hope and declarations of their love to empower me.”

“Additionally, I believe not taking time off after my surgery was a plus,” Cherice notes. “The annual Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame weekend was just 8 days after my procedure.” The event went off without a hitch. The next day, she was on a plane to France to teach and perform at a festival.

Big Queens cancer journey 2011

© Evelyn Rodos Big Queen's cancer journey 2011

World Cancer Day 2023 02 04

© Photo credit (white suit) by Jeffery Ehrenreich

Carnival Day 2012 marked the day that the Maroon Queen publicly declared that the Guardians had officially become a Maroon Society, to honor the self-emancipation of enslaved people.

Her 2012 suit, “Rise Up!” is an homage to Maroon Queen Reesie’s cancer journey. Part of her recovery involved thousands of hours of meditative beading and sewing. “I envisioned myself on the other side of my cancer journey, well and still-being creative,” she states. Her design depicted a trilogy of 3 phoenixes: the Mother, Daughter and the Holy Spirit. “I had one on my crown, one on my skirt, I became the third one. I included wings on the suit as a way of invoking my father, the late Big Chief Donald Harrison, Sr. as my guardian during the journey to survival.”

Proud to be a Grantee

Gilead Funds New Orleans Musicians’ Assistance Foundation (NOMC&AF)’s Innovative Program to Bridge Gaps in Breast Cancer Care and Equity

As we commemorate Black History Month and World Cancer Day on February 4, NOMC&AF is deeply honored that Gilead Sciences, Inc. has granted us a vital “feather” from their Toward Health Equity Oncology Grant™ to advance Cultural Engagement to Overcome Breast Cancer in Louisiana as we address barriers to early detection, care and inequities of health including cultural competency training of medical providers.

This program is independently operated by The New Orleans Musicians Assistance Foundation (NOMC&AF) in cooperation with our coalition of Health Equity partners including Justice & Beyond, Ashe Cultural Arts Center, the Guardians of the Flame Maroon Society and The Amazons, with grant funding from Gilead Sciences. The grant was awarded as part of the newly created Toward Health Equity Oncology Grant™.