After receiving a breast cancer diagnosis in 2015, Marissa Thomas, a 42-year-old Atlanta resident and breast cancer awareness advocate, scoured social media to find other Black women who were also navigating the disease.
She was fortunate to discover a few women — who remain her supportive friends to this day — but it wasn’t easy to find them.
When simply searching the hashtag “breast cancer,” she says “nine times out of 10, what’s going to come up are accounts or pictures or images of white women and not necessarily Black or brown women.”
On top of that, “most of the groups that were out there that were online, were, for the most part, all white organizations, which is fine, but we can only relate to them so much,” Thomas tells Word In Black.
Jumping those hurdles led her to co-found For the Breast of Us alongside Jasmine Souers. The online community empowers women of color affected by breast cancer to make the rest of their lives “the best of their lives.”
“I knew that they were out there, and I just wanted to create a community where we could all connect easily in one central location,” Thomas says, who serves as the organization’s CEO.
Breast Cancer Doesn’t Just Affect the Body After a Diagnosis — it Can Affect the Mind, Too
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States. An estimated 13% develop the disease at some point in their lives, and about 2.5% die from it, according to the American Cancer Society.
Among Black women, the stakes are even higher. Not only are they more likely than white women to develop breast cancer before age 40, but at any age, when they do get diagnosed, it’s often more advanced and aggressive forms of the disease, such as triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) and inflammatory breast cancer.
Overall, Black women are 40% more likely than white women to die from breast cancer.