My story begins in 2005 in sunny San Diego, California where I had the most amazing opportunity to be on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser”. I will never forget coming home from the gym one afternoon and while watching The Young and the Restless, I rested my hand on my chest where I felt a strange lump the size of a silver dollar in my right breast. I shared that I had a lump to my Biggest Loser teammate Jessica whose mother had had Breast Cancer and she strongly urged me to have the lump checked out. In April of 2005 I was told by a Naval Hospital Radiologist that the lump that they saw was not cancer because I did not have a family history of Breast Cancer. Like so many of us that diagnosis was wrong and because of my age and unknown family history the proper procedures were not offered to me.
Growing up in the 1970’s & 80’s in North Carolina, Cancer was not a subject that was discussed by my family or as a part of my culture in general. I never knew what my paternal grandmother passed away from or any of the particulars of what my grandfather’s mother had died from when I was a preteen. I can truly say I did not know anyone that had ever had cancer before while growing up. So, at the age of 34 years old I had no clue exactly what my family history was as far as cancer was concerned therefore, with my diagnosis of Breast Cancer I became my family history for Breast Cancer.
When first diagnosed with breast cancer, I was scared like most people would be. I never questioned God why this assignment was given to me. I did ask to allow me to live to see my children Tiana, Tiara & Reginald grow up and have children of their own. When I first started my journey, I contacted the American Cancer Society who had a program in place that matched women up based on various demographics to assist with mentally surviving a Breast Cancer diagnosis. My sponsor and I did not match in a variety of areas, but she was amazing. I learned through my Breast Cancer journey that African American women are more likely to get aggressive breast cancer such as Triple Negative Breast Cancer. I had an opportunity to work with the American Cancer Society and Walmart as a Community Health Advisor, where my job was to reach out to the African American women in my community who at the time had the 3rd highest death rate in the country and highest death rate in my state. It was during this time that I was made aware of many of the factors that went into why the death rates of African American women was so high and I wanted to help make a change. My own personal journey was not a quick one, so it wasn’t until 2019 that I was able to start what was planted into me in 2006.
SISTA Survivor (Sistas Inspiring Sistas To Annihilate their fears) was created based on the need to educate as many as possible African American women about Breast Cancer and how it effects our culture. It was also created to encourage African American women have those crucial conversations about CANCER. As a culture it is not normally talked about.
I shared my journey of Breast Cancer to many and oftentimes after telling someone that I had Breast Cancer they would share with me that they knew someone who had Breast Cancer, but the person died. Those are the kinds of stories that no cancer patient wants to hear. It has been my goal since then to be a story of survivorship so that when someone is diagnosed with Breast Cancer they can say “I have a friend name Tina and she had Breast Cancer and SHE KICKED CANCERS BUTT!” It was because of these stories of death that my hashtag was born instead of death, I bring you a story of life #IAMYOURSURVIVOR STORY.