Health and Fitness

Black Women and Breast Cancer: Self Advocacy as a WOC

In some ways, though, my mom’s journey with cancer prepared me for the long fight ahead. A month after I completed chemo, I had a double mastectomy per my doctor’s advice. I knew that after the surgery I wasn’t going to be able to pick up London for a while, and it was really tough having that talk with her. Even saying goodbye to her before my surgery was really difficult, because I didn’t want her to see me like that. I was already bald and sick because of the chemo, and then I had to go to surgery. When I came out, I had two surgical drains on my sides. Even though she didn’t totally understand, she knew something was different. It was such a hard recovery, and I was essentially immobile for two months.

Then, a couple months after that, I started radiation therapy. Since I had stage III cancer and it had spread to my lymph nodes, radiation was a way to make sure there were no lingering microscopic cancer cells. Just trying to survive was like a part-time job. For five weeks, I got up at 7 a.m., Monday through Friday, to go to my treatments. These appointments often lasted hours. Afterward, I would come home and just rest.

On April 28, 2021, a year after I first felt that unusual ache in my breast, I was officially declared cancer-free and done with treatment. That’s the date I plan to celebrate my “cancer-versary.” But I still feel the mental and physical weight of chemotherapy every day. I struggle with overwhelming fatigue. Sometimes, “chemo brain” strikes mid-conversation, and I can’t remember what I was saying. Thankfully, though, my hair is growing back, and I’m strong enough to pick up my daughter again. I’m just happy I’m still around to thank my family, who helped me so much through my treatment and recovery.

Now, I’m deciding whether or not I want to have reconstructive breast surgery. It was my personal decision to go flat—I didn’t want to put my body through any more at the time. I’m comfortable with my new body type and having fun trying on clothes and figuring out what works for me, at least for now. Whatever happens in the future, it is my decision—one thing that I finally have power over. The last year was a whirlwind of treatments and doctors making decisions about my body. It’s nice to have some control back.

Cancer has taken a lot away from me, but it’s also helped me find a new meaning in life. During my chemotherapy treatments, I would sit alone in the hospital for half a day. It gave me a chance to practice self-care in new ways—something I had a hard time prioritizing before my diagnosis. That’s when I started journaling. Taking pen to paper awoke a deep passion for writing in me, which I then started doing on Instagram. I’ve shared everything about my journey with breast cancer and all the feelings that go with it. I want newly diagnosed people to use it as a guide, and more importantly, to know they’re not alone.

That’s how I caught the attention of the Young Survival Coalition, who offered me a part-time job as a community content coordinator. It’s changed my life in ways I didn’t realize were possible. Now, I can reach out to other breast cancer patients who went through similar experiences that I did and help them tell their stories too.

Sharing my pain now has a purpose. Spreading the word about breast cancer, especially in women of color, has become one of my passions. When I was first diagnosed, other survivors (we call them Pink Sisters) helped me make sense of the journey. They answered all of my nitty-gritty questions, like what to expect from chemotherapy and what I need to have at home after surgery. So I want to pay it forward.

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