Since childhood, the word “strong” felt synonymous with being Black.
Community did too. Descendants of enslaved people who organized rebellions, shared
information when lines of communication required great care and ingenuity to create, and built
their own communities, understand the power to do this lives within us.
Yet, somewhere along the way I began to try and stand on my own no matter what I was facing.
I thought that was being strong. When I was diagnosed I remember feeling so alone. I was no
longer a part of the healthy humans club. In person cancer support groups didn’t appear to offer
the community I sought, as I was the youngest and Blackest face there… and then there was the
fact that I had MBC, right out the gate. Where could I find community when I’d been thrown
into yet another subcategory making me less relatable? A place I would fit in, truly.
Where do any of us find it? I’ve found, as was often the case for our ancestors, it tends to start
with us creating such spaces. Just being ourselves is a form of survivorship. Being willing to
reach out your hand when you're drowning, while it may feel weak, is being strong.
Sending out an S.O.S is the only way to receive help, and it requires courage and transparency
when you’re dealing with cancer.
The church and faith has long been a source of strength for the Black community, and I believe it
can play a role in survivorship. How powerful would it be to hear a message about the body
being a temple while being encouraged and empowered to treat it as such by connecting people
with providers they could trust, for screenings that could help them and openly addressing the
mental health effects of a breast cancer diagnosis?
How powerful would it be to share resources so more of us have access? From transportation for
those who need it to get medical care to wig companies that offer textured hair to simply sharing
health histories with our families instead of hiding them in shame. Sharing our stories with loved
ones could mean survivorship for them, whether by early detection and preventative care or
helping them receive and begin handling a diagnosis.
Survivorship has many faces and it is in our blood. Making something out of nothing, the best of
the worst situations; that is what Black people have always done. The key is we need
community to do it well.
An MBC diagnosis can leave you feeling shipwrecked. Wherever you were sailing in life, MBC
was an iceberg you didn’t see coming. We’re left floating, aimlessly. It doesn’t have to be this
way. If we all take our broken pieces and pull them together we can build a raft, and sail on into
something special, making changes like increasing representation in clinical trials so we know
how different drugs affect our bodies; changing those dire digits that confirm we’re not only
being diagnosed with MBC right out the gate (as I was) more often than white women, but dying
of this disease at a higher rate as well. I have great hope for our future as we’ve brought about
change for us time and again. All we have to do is stand strong together, keep sharing
information to educate and empower and keep speaking up for ourselves and each other, while
we’re out here trying to survive.
Together we stand,