Love brought me through
“I told her something was wrong,” I screamed as I collapsed into my mother’s arms.
I didn’t mean to cry out so loudly, but I did.
After two failed screenings and six months of “you’re too young for breast cancer,” there I was receiving the diagnosis that would forever change my life.
Despite my fear of what would come next and the disappointment I felt for the doctor who dismissed my initial concerns, all I wanted to do was start the fight.
Being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 26 was humbling, to say the least.
My mom was with me every step of the way.
She gathered my friends and family to see me off before surgery so I could start my journey with prayer and good energy. After my bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction, I relied on my family to help me with the simplest things. She was there to strip my drains and help me shower. She braided my hair and washed my face when I couldn’t raise my arms. She prayed with me when I cried out of frustration from multiple hospitalizations and setbacks.
So in all fairness, I can’t talk about my cancer journey without mentioning my mom — my closest co-survivor.
Throughout my journey, there were so many reminders I was an outlier in the breast cancer community. The wigs at the local nonprofits didn’t match my hair type or color. The “what to expect” pamphlet for radiation wasn’t written for women with melanated skin. The imagery online of women with mastectomies looked nothing like me. And the doctors repeatedly reminded me they weren’t used to treating patients so young.
I sincerely believe no experience will be wasted and after feeling like I had been given a second chance to do something meaningful with my life, I was looking for an opportunity to turn pain into purpose.
My mom traveled with me to Orlando on a whim to attend the Young Survival Coalition Summit. It was there I finally felt what it was like to belong. It was special to be surrounded by other young women on their cancer journeys and I was so inspired by the energy, I knew I had to bring that love back to my hometown of Jacksonville, FL as a YSC volunteer.
But even having found my tribe of young survivors, I longed to connect with other women of color.
All of those experiences of feeling displaced combined with becoming a volunteer for the Young Survival Coalition and learning about health equity and disparities, lead to the creation of the first community for women of color affected by breast cancer, For the Breast of Us. At For the Breast of Us, our mission is to uplift women of color affected by breast cancer by sharing stories that educate, inspire, and connect.
We do this through educational webinars, live podcasts, weekly stories from women in our community, and creating an encouraging environment in our private Facebook group. We address myths and misconceptions that may prevent women from seeking quality healthcare. We recruit women to participate in research and advocacy. And we offer a judgment-free zone for women to share their experiences at all ages and stages of treatment.
Now, the love of my mother that helped me overcome the greatest hurdle of my life, and the love for supporting young women and women of color affected by breast cancer are colliding to bring new ideas and approaches to breaking barriers for the women who face the worst disparities in the cancer community.
As an emerging leader of the latest wave to empower women of color with information and through community, I’m proud to say love brought me through. And it’s because of love that I am dedicated to bringing thousands of women with me on this crusade to better lives and better health outcomes.
(Disclaimer: This webpage may contain general information relating to various medical conditions and their treatment. Such information is provided for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for advice provided by a doctor or other qualified health professional. Patients should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing a health or fitness problem or disease. Patients should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice or information about diagnosis or treatment.)