JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – World Cancer Day is Thursday, February 4.
More Black women under the age of 45 dies of breast cancer each year than any other group.
I went inside a local business that’s stepping up to help a young woman with her fight against this deadly disease with one simple pink dress.
“I’m asking you the questions that I need to ask and I’m still not getting answers. It’s a slap in the face,” Jessica Florence, a senior at Florida A&M University Senior.
Florence’s battle with cancer started nearly 5 years ago at 22 years old.
“May 25, 2016, I was diagnosed with stage 3A breast cancer. I felt like I had been through 3 different people. That should be a wake-up call. I also had symptoms of discharge and discoloration in my breast. Everyone overlooked it,” said Florence.
After feeling dismissed by several doctors, Florence finally got her diagnosis.
But just last year, after 3 missed diagnoses, she finally found out she had stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.
The disease spreading from her breasts, to her lymph nodes, and eventually into her brain.
Her story of neglect is all too familiar to so many young black women.
“You know there are these symptoms that continue to persist, and doctors are like it could be this or it could be that all the while my quality of life has been completely eradicated. I’m like a zombie at this point and no one is listening,” said Nicole Banks, owner of Pretty Pieces.
Nicole Banks, the owner of Pretty Pieces, a local fashion brand had to also advocate for herself during a life-or-death medical situation.
“I know that I have been through 5 endocrinologists myself. I got to a place where I’m just like what do I do,” said Banks.
“We know it happens. We know that some people are not necessarily taken as seriously as others. There are many factors for that, the race may be part of it, age may be part of it, perception of education level may be part of it,” said Dr. Tonya Hollinger, Agape Family Health.
“I’ve been through all these things in life and she’s just getting started. So, I got to be there, I got to be there to help her because I know how that feels,” said Banks.
Banks has now turned her pain into purpose - by helping Florence pay her cancer treatments with the Jessica Dress.
“Being in a place where you have a chronic illness, and it involves long treatments there are going to be some steep out-of-pocket expenses. So, I said we could create this cute little dress a dress everybody can wear, and we can donate a portion of that to Jessica’s out of pocket costs,” said Banks.
You can find the Jessica Dress here.
At this time, Florence is paying for her treatments out of her scholarship money and says she appreciates all the women like Nicole who have stepped up to help her battle cancer.
Her message to the medical community - all patients can’t be treated the same.
“I would say that there should be a standard of care for African American women going through cancer. Because my treatment isn’t going to be the same as my white counterparts. So, you have to do your research take that extra step forward on how our skin reacts, our hair, and our genetic make-up,” said Florence.
“It does help to see more minorities in healthcare and other fields to advocate for patients who are at risk. We know that minorities are more at risk for poorer risk for these diseases. The more we can get awareness in these communities for people to get the testing they need, the better off we all are,” said Dr. Hollinger.
For more medical advocacy resources, click here. Florence hopes her story will give the next woman courage to speak up for herself.