Breast Cancer Survival: From an African-American Perspective
Did you know that in women under 45, breast cancer is more common in African-American women than white women and have a higher mortality rate? In 2019, an estimated 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S., along with 62,930 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer. Scary statistics for African American women!
Meet Tanzanika, a survivor. She received her diagnosis on January 12, 2016 at age 35. Hers was invasive ductal carcinoma stage 2, estrogen receptor positive. So what does all this mean? It means a double mastectomy, 4 rounds of chemo and 28 rounds of radiation, and removal of her ovaries and fallopian tubes, “basically all of my girl parts”. As a single mother, it was an incredible scary and daunting journey she was facing, but with her faith to carry her through she stood up to her fears, summoned her courage, and took on the battle ahead. She said she was very disheartened that when she was facing her diagnosis, there were no pictures of black women for her to see how she may look afterwards. She shared with me that African American skin scars very differently than Caucasian skin so she was very concerned. She did all the research and doctor visits she needed to find the right fit for her. Her best advice is to be your own advocate and never settle if you are unsure, trust your instincts. “This is your body, the only one you have, so these decisions need to be made with the utmost care and consideration.”
We reached out to Tanzy since she was featured on a Palm Tran bus featuring African American breast cancer survivors. Tanzy is a role model for Susan G. Komen in the campaign for breast cancer awareness for African American women. She wants to help her sisters and share her story know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and survivorship can be beautiful. “There is no better feeling than knowing you have gone through the storm and come out stronger and better on the other side, and that your scars do not define you”.
When we first nominated her, she said she was very apprehensive. “Doing a boudoir shoot would mean I would have to show my scars and be vulnerable. The thought of that terrified me, but I really wanted to feel beautiful again, to feel like a woman, so I agreed to meet for the in person consultation. “Upon walking into the studio and meeting Rhea and her staff I immediately felt comfortable and welcomed. I walked into a space that was unfamiliar to do something I had never done before. Rhea made sure I knew no negativity was allowed in this beautiful space. I was not allowed to feel bad about myself or fill my head with ugly thoughts.” I could see that Tanzy was very nervous about the lingerie since her body had been through so many changes after her diagnosis. However, I pride myself at having a wardrobe that can fit a wide variety of body shapes and sizes. And yes, we fitted her too with 3 amazing outfits. “Wearing lingerie was something I had never done before. When I see myself I see all the things I want to change or fix, but when Rhea she’s you she sees all that you are and could be. “
On session day, she rocked it and mentioned that she finally felt sexy in her new skin again, which was exactly what we were going for! She said that it absolutely helped her self-esteem. “From the moment I walked into the studio for my shoot, I was still a little apprehensive, and then during the session my confidence grew and grew and now I feel absolutely amazing, I highly recommend these session to all my sisters and all women! This is something I will take with me as a reminder of the strong beautiful woman that I know I am. I am so thankful for this experience. It was worth every bit of anxiety I had trying on pieces that didn’t hide my imperfections but showed all the beautiful scars I had earned fighting for and living life after cancer.”