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Survivorship in the Black Community

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,

Deltra James

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Sharon Kidd
Sharon Kidd
Sep 17, 2021

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Deltra! I am so glad that we are building the communities we need. I know I felt so alone when I was diagnosed, both times.


So beautiful and impactful. Thanks for this. I related to this on so many levels.

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