Councilmember Margaret Breland decided to stand up and confront the whispers. At a Monday evening press conference, the 65-year-old councilmember announced that she was fighting a winning battle over breast cancer.
“I do have breast cancer,” she told the group of reporters outside the Francis Albrier Center at San Pablo Park where she was about to hold a community meeting. “I am going to defeat it.”
Running for a second term on the council, Breland underscored that she is able to continue her duties as council member through the remaining seven chemotherapy treatments and beyond. “Even though people say I’m sick, I am not,” she said, adding that her doctor has given her the green light to continue her council work and run a re-election campaign.
Breland discovered she had a malignancy four months ago during a routine mammogram and had a lumpectomy in June at Alta Bates Medical Center. She has had one chemotherapy treatment and will have seven more treatments, each three weeks apart.
The retired registered nurse is facing four contenders for the District 2 council seat in south west Berkeley. When one reporter asked how the cancer would affect her race, Breland responded: “I think they might try to use it as an advantage to them.” She said there were rumors going around that she is in ill health and unable to serve on the council.
She emphasized that, in addition to squelching the murmurings about her ill health and inability to hold office, she wanted her discovery to serve as a warning to others that they must get regular mammograms.
It is not an accident that Breland, who is African American, is the council’s liaison to the city’s Community Health Commission and very active in the work to address last year’s Health Disparity Study that showed that the health in Berkeley’s African American community is dramatically poorer than in the Caucasian hills community, as measured, by the number of premature deaths and premature births.
Breland said she is thankful she found the malignancy early. “I’m lucky I have insurance and go to the doctor,” she said. “There are those who can’t.”