Facing TNBC. Stories of resilience and triumph

27.10.2023 posted by Admin

Unexpected diagnosis unites remarkable women

Lyndsay had already found herself in her dream job when life took an unexpected turn. Keisha was in the best physical shape of her life when she received life-altering news. Jazmine, just 28 years old, faced a similar upheaval. So, what's the common thread among these three remarkable women? All three were given the diagnosis of triple-negative breast cancer.

Triple-negative breast cancer, often abbreviated as TNBC, represents a specific subtype of breast cancer that possesses a tendency to grow rapidly and carries a higher risk of spreading and recurring following treatment compared to other breast cancer subtypes. Notably, this aggressive form of cancer is more prevalent in individuals under 40, especially Black women and those with BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations.

Lyndsay, Keisha, and Jazmine are being honored as Hometown Heroes within the Merck Uncovering TNBC program. They have gone above and beyond to raise awareness and advocate for at-risk women in their communities. These extraordinary women, along with Emmy-nominated television host Nina Parker and Maimah Karmo, a 17-year TNBC survivor affiliated with the Tigerlily Foundation, engaged in a candid discussion addressing the disparities experienced by Black women.

"While the overall breast cancer mortality rate in the United States has decreased by 43% over the past three decades, the reality is different for Black women. They have a 4% lower incidence rate of breast cancer compared to White women, yet they face a 40% higher breast cancer mortality rate. Among Black and Hispanic women in the U.S., breast cancer stands as the leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Of those diagnosed with breast cancer, approximately 10-15% are afflicted by TNBC."

These unsettling statistics can be attributed, in part, to healthcare disparities. Black women often encounter challenges accessing screenings, treatment, and educational resources for prevention. Historical obstacles within the healthcare system, including limited educational opportunities and restricted participation in clinical trials, have contributed significantly to the disparities faced by Black women.

Jazmine, who works as a nurse, can view these disparities through a unique lens. She emphasizes the importance of healthcare providers understanding their patients' cultural backgrounds, as this fosters better communication. "Taking the time to understand people's circumstances and meeting them where they are is absolutely vital." Since her own diagnosis, Jazmine has initiated a podcast in collaboration with fellow healthcare professionals, aiming to provide essential information to those at risk within her community.

Maimah adds, "It is crucial to take further steps to enhance the care provided to Black women, especially those at risk for TNBC. The oncology community must unite to address the disparities faced by Black women. This involves improving access to screenings, ensuring equitable treatment access, and delivering comprehensive education and support."

Recognizing the Importance of Self-Care

Nina's mother, upon revealing her breast cancer diagnosis, appeared to be withdrawing emotionally. Later, Nina realized that her mother, who had always been the family's emotional anchor, was putting herself first for the first time. This scenario is not uncommon among Black women, who frequently prioritize the needs and desires of others over their own, even regarding their health.

Jazmine points out, "As Black women, we often feel compelled to be strong and provide support for others. We seldom ask for what we need. However, when undergoing treatment, we must be open and honest about our requirements. Sharing our needs can propel us further."

Keisha experienced this firsthand when she was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 50. Balancing her responsibilities as a mother, wife, and career woman while managing her treatment proved challenging. She admitted, "I felt guilty because I knew I had to take care of myself, but at the same time, I worried about them." To cope, this Bay Area resident found her unique form of self-care by sharing her journey through social media, inspiring and helping others in the process.

The Power of Sharing Stories

Lyndsay emphasizes the need for more advocacy and storytelling for people living with TNBC. She personally faced her diagnosis at 37 while working as a TV journalist in New York City, far from her family and a support system during treatment. Her experience inspired her to establish an organization aimed at creating a supportive community for women battling cancer.
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