“I was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer at 37 years old. Although my battle has been discouraging at times, I fight for all women everywhere and for my two young daughters. I remember my reaction to the morbid news and thinking my life was over, but with the favor of God and support of my family and church, I have been able to commit to a positive outlook. All the cancer was removed by surgery and my breast was saved. I feel compelled to assist other women in this fight, and women should not have to go through this alone. I have returned back to work and am doing well.”
Renee J. Nash, 47
“I was diagnosed at the age of 39. As a single mother of two, the diagnosis was devastating. I underwent a radical mastectomy followed by eight months of chemotherapy and partial reconstructive surgery. I stopped my reconstruction process because I was tired of the surgeries. I attend monthly support group meetings to connect with other survivors. Since my diagnosis, I have had lumps in my other breast that have been benign. I now live life to the fullest and have learned never to sweat the small stuff. Cancer puts life into perspective. My motto: Life Is Filled With Possibilities-Pick One!”
Mary Ann Taylor, 53
“I will celebrate eight years of being breast cancer-free on October 30. I found the tumor during my monthly self exam. The treatment was hard with chemo and radiation, and I thank God every day for my family and friends who helped me through. A friend and I started Survivors Supporting a Cause to help employees with cancer or a major illness at our job. I do the walks and raise awareness, because we can beat this.”
Gail Brown-Hayes, 62
“When I felt a lump in 2007, I felt I had breast cancer and I was right. My surgeon thought surgery, radiation and hormonal treatment would work, but my oncologist suggested chemotherapy too. I was told of a new clinical trial, which I enrolled in. One benefit was a unique test on recurrence. I had an intermediate risk of breast cancer returning, which convinced me to do chemo. When I lost my hair, I bought a few wigs, including one like Rihanna’s hairstyle. My husband supported me the entire time and was understanding since his mother, sister, and cousin had breast cancer before.”
Crystal Brown-Tatum, 37
“I am a Stage IIIA, triple negative survivor! I was diagnosed one month after my wedding. I am thankful that my husband came into my life when he did because he urged me to go to the doctor about the lump in my armpit region. I underwent a lumpectomy, four rounds of aggressive chemo and 37 radiation treatments. Since I could not readily find a book written by a young Black women that outlined what to expect during treatment, I wrote a memoir entitled ‘Saltwater Taffy and Red High Heels!’”
Yulinda Lewis-Kelly, 44
“In 1999 at the age of 34, I started having a bloody nipple discharge. Soon thereafter I was diagnosed with Stage Two breast cancer. I had a mastectomy and six months of brutal chemotherapy. Sometimes I wanted to just give up and die, but my faith kept me going. After eight years and being declared cancer-free, in 2007 I learned it was back. It was metastatic, and had spread to both sides of my lungs and hit my lymph nodes. I am on hormones to treat it, and will be for the rest of my life. I started my own business, The Celebration of Life-Cancer Awareness Organization, where I can encourage others to continue to fight.”
Stacy L. Murray-Medcalf, 43
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 at the age of 38. I found a pea-size lump, which I was told was “caffeine deposit” after x-rays. The doctor said I was too young for it to be cancer, with no family history. Six months later I was diagnosed with breast cancer, Stage 3B. After three months of radical chemotherapy, a mastectomy, blood transfusions, and more chemotherapy, I am in my fifth year of being cancer-free. I am blessed I followed up, and ladies, I was not too young.”
Minister Mary D. Edwards, 67
“My mother, brother and sister were all diagnosed with cancer in 18 months. Finally, when I took a breath, my husband was stricken. After being told his side pain was an infection, doctors found he had stage four cancer. He died five months later. The transition from wife to widow wasn’t the only major crisis I had to deal with. Before I could catch my breath, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in stage one. Images of death began to dance in my head after losing my mother, brother, sister, and husband. Once I got over my fears, I rose up and prepared myself for battle. I was fighting for my own life and the life of my grandchildren and great grandchildren. I changed the ‘r’ in cancer to an ‘l’ cancel the cycle. Enough is enough!”
Joyce Hampton, 46
“The Lord had to sit me down so that I could spend more time with him. I was diagnosed three years ago and underwent a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and reconstruction. I am not only a survivor, but an overcomer. I started a nonprofit, Joyce Hampton’s Roller Skating for the Cure, since I love skating. This year I was awarded the Aaron Smith Award from the American Cancer Society and am now heading a cancer support group at my church. God spared our lives for sure, that’s why we’re here to give our testimony.”
Joyce pictured left, with her cousin Cindy
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We Are Survivors!
Breast cancer is serious business, but it doesn’t have to mean a death sentence. We’ve rounded up Black women of all ages who are surviving and thriving after being diagnosed.