SEATTLE - A woman’s Fourth of July tribute celebrates our nation and her victory over breast cancer.
If you’re planning to head to Gas Works park Tuesday night, you’ll not only get to see some amazing fireworks, you’ll also hear a fabulous live performance of the National Anthem from someone who has a special connection with the song.
For Bridgette Hempstead it’s about more than patriotism and our great nation. The National Anthem is a song of victory at a time when so many others were ready for her to give up.
Bridgette beat breast cancer twice. The first time she was diagnosed was on her 35th birthday.
“I had to fight to even get a diagnosis because I was told by my doctors that I didn’t need to have a mammogram,” Bridgette recalls. “They gave me a laundry list of reasons why I shouldn’t have to get a mammogram. The last one was because I was African American and that breast cancer didn’t really affect my community.”
Bridgette didn’t give up. She demanded a test, which came up positive.
While taking care of three young daughters and fighting her own cancer battle, Bridgette started Cierra Sisters, a nonprofit aimed at informing African American women about the disease and supporting them as they entered their own battles.
“Back then, everything that you saw – the Susan G Komen walks and all the other breast cancer awareness events – there were no black women that were there. That was really disturbing to me because I knew that I was not the only one,” said Bridgette.
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Cierra Sisters quickly went from occasional meetings at a coffee shop to a partnership with Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Doctors from all over started referring patients to Bridgette so they might benefit from her knowledge and experience.
Then, 18 years after her initial diagnosis, she was diagnosed with cancer again.
“And, the doctor I went to, she told me ‘You won’t live a year and you won’t sing again.'”
Bridgette wouldn’t accept that and immediately began treatment. One month later, her health began to improve. Nine months later, the Seattle Seahawks invited her to sing the National Anthem before one of their games.
“It was almost like divine intervention,” Bridgette said.
Not only did she sing, Bridgette beat breast cancer for a second time and watched her daughter receive her degree at Howard University.
Now a grandmother, Bridgette’s fight continues.
Cierra Sisters will host a health fair later this month in South Seattle.
You can catch Bridgette’s live performance Tuesday night at Gasworks Park just before the fireworks.