On Wednesday, I spent the morning and afternoon at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) offering a survivor’s insights on the National Cancer Institute’s study of African American women and breast cancer. This is the largest ever national study on “how genetic and biological factors contribute to breast cancer risk among black women.” Along with Dr. Damali Martin of the National Cancer Institute, I conducted radio and television interviews sharing this information nationally, especially among African American women. That evening, my nine year old daughter, Kennedy, and I went to an outdoor jazz concert. When I was battling cancer, I wished for motherhood moments like this.
My health and my family are a priority! When I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in 2008, my first prayer was for God to let me see my children grow up. I was especially concerned because triple negative breast cancer disproportionately affects African American women, young women and there is currently no targeted treatment. I was increasingly concerned because of my family history; I’m fifth generation in my family to have breast cancer and many of my relatives succumbed to breast cancer in their 30s and 40s. African American women, while diagnosed at a lower rate, have a higher rate of breast cancer mortality. All of these factors fueled my concern when I was diagnosed at 38. My daughter was 19 months old and my son was four years old. I am blessed that I have been able to watch them during the last seven years and it was nice to end the day with my daughter after being encouraged by the release of NCI’s study.
One of my insights through my cancer experience is the importance of access to information. I believe that learning as much as I can about this disease and my specific subtype has helped me advocate for myself to ensure that I’m getting the best care. Seven years later, as my daughter and I listened to the soothing music, the concert ended with a Louis Armstrong tribute and the band played “What a Wonderful World”. We sat smiling (see picture above) and I thought to myself, it’s indeed wonderful to be able to enjoy this time with my daughter. As the NCI study on African American women and breast cancer begins, I am hopeful that the findings will ensure ground breaking information that leads to more ways to reduce disparities and ultimately eradicate cancer. I pray for increased survival and quality of life. I hope that my daughter and I have many more years of jazz concerts together. And, I hope that the outcomes of this study will provide many more days like this for me and Kennedy and for African American women who face breast cancer.
For more information on this study visit:
- By phone: 1-800-4-CANCER
Melanie A. Nix – Triple negative breast cancer survivor. Resilience Coach, Reconstructionist™ and Health and Wellness Advocate. Always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal.