My name is Leslie Williams. I am a 10 year breast cancer survivor.
I had my first baseline mammogram at the age of 35. I came back at the age of 40 in 2008 as recommended, and my mammogram was negative. In October 2009, at the age of 41, it was two months past my yearly exam when I discovered a lump in my left breast. I was almost too busy that year to get a mammogram. That’s when I found out I had breast cancer.
Stage 1 infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma breast cancer, pathology triple negative, changed my life forever. But it wasn’t for the worst. Being a fervent Christian and having passionate faith in God, sustained me through it all. Because of breast cancer walks, study trials, events and research findings I was assured that my health was in good hands with the latest technology, services and treatments available to me. All of that matters to someone like me!
There is no family history of cancer, especially breast cancer. However, I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer which is aggressive and has had, until recently, limited treatment options. Now, that’s literally changing by the day.
For me KNOWLEDGE is POWER. Understanding researched information about Triple Negative Breast Cancer made me feel empowered. But something was missing for me during treatment and afterwards. Where were the support groups for women who look like me and especially women impacted by (TNBC) Triple Negative Breast Cancer? After all, it has been heavily documented that TNBC affects more than twice as many young black and Latina women as all other women.
Fortunately and unfortunately, women in the African American culture are being raised as “Super Women”; put your families, careers and other pursuits first and expected to be able to juggle it all, then find time for yourself when you can. That type of mindset coupled with the paralyzing fear of the unknown, pride and privacy is a detriment to our overall mortality rate. Also, as seen in more recent studies, just being an African American woman is a high risk factor for TNBC. These statistics has made me become an advocate whenever and wherever possible, trying to attend different support, network groups, breast cancer symposiums, research panels and conferences seeking to educate myself and pass on the knowledge to other “Super Women”.
As an African American breast cancer survivor, I want to continue to use my face and voice in communities that are silent or who have turned a blind eye on breast cancer all together. Unfortunately, the latest trend is that our breast cancer cases are getting younger and younger. I’ve been blessed to share my experience on TV, online testimonials, magazine articles and a billboard. I do periodic PSA segments for a local hospital and attend health fairs and seminars to engage and enlighten other potential TNBC survivors. I have also had the honor to participate as a Consumer Reviewer for the Breast Cancer Research Program (BCRP) funded by the Department of Defense in 2012. In April 2013, l created a monthly Triple Negative Breast Cancer Social Network Group, Survivors On Purpose (SOP) to have peer to peer conversations about personal journeys, education and breast cancer survivorship as a social outlet for women impacted by this disease. In 2016, SOP was able to send four breast cancer survivors to participate in the program as well. I will continue to share my story, study and learn about the biology of breast cancer.
I’ve been blessed to have a captive audience by sharing my experience. I will continue to share my story, study and learn about the biology of TNBC. I will always be an advocated for Triple Negative Breast Cancer research until there is a cure or a discovery of the cause. Maybe one day we can prevent cancer from happening all together. And that is my Prayer! Remember, whether you are in treatment, post treatment or metastatic, a “Survivor” is someone who lives to see another sunrise.
Survivors On Purpose, Inc. is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization founded by survivor, Leslie Williams. It was created to bridge the gap of cultural disparity, to promote self-advocacy and encourage participatory research especially for women at risk for the disease. Survivors On Purpose, Inc., (SOP) a Triple Negative Breast Cancer foundation, is made up of breast cancer survivors, caretakers, families and supporters who are faithful advocates for African American women and other women who are impacted by this diagnosis.
Survivors On Purpose, Inc. is focused on raising community awareness about Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) and forming partnerships and alliances with researchers, scientists, doctors and medical educators in their efforts to identify root causes of triple-negative breast cancer. SOP encourages these efforts by survivor participation, current studies and real-time conversations through community grassroots agendas. Our goal is to eliminate the inherent fear and silence about breast cancer and replace it with knowledge about TNBC that is prevalent in the African American community. Finding a cure and the prevention of breast cancer is our ultimate vision.
Survivors On Purpose, Inc. is committed to changing the legacy of breast cancer through peer-to-peer support, networking, education, advocacy and communities call to action. Funds raised will support programs and activities for women before, during and after a diagnosis of TNBC. Survivors On Purpose Inc. offers support and encouragement from a positive personal experience to others who have had a diagnosis of breast cancer.
Philosophically, SOP regards the following characteristics as important:
Hope as we encourage everyone on the breast cancer journey to ‘choose to fight, choose life’ and walk this journey feeling bold and empowered to be agents of change.
Local Base as we are a grass roots organization, we seek to involve our local communities and our efforts are for the local community. We educate our community through outreach.
Inclusive as we build close relationships and maintain a culture of camaraderie and friendships that embraces each person who is on the journey.
Personal Support as we provide support and help through one-to-one approaches that meet the needs of each person.
Research as we believe in taking part in unlocking the code of Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) and its impact to African American women and other women diagnosed with this disease. We believe in funding relevant and innovative research, supporting and advocating for the breast cancer community. We feel that cultural participatory research is crucial and to vital treatment options and finding a cure.
To maintain commitment to the community, SOP seeks to:
Widen Support that is available to those on the TNBC journey. To do this, Survivors On Purpose, Inc. will need to continue to build networks and opportunities to advocate on behalf of all breast cancer survivors, their families and caregivers.
Nurture the Culture of Inclusion by strengthening our capacity to support and build nurturing relationships with new survivors of TNBC, as well as those who are well along in their journeys. Continue to build SOP as a vehicle to connect people to local networks and reach out to a wider circle to ensure that SOP is relevant to women of all ages.
Strengthen Awareness of TNBC by increasing the reach of Survivors On Purpose, Inc. initiatives in local colleges, corporate workplaces and healthcare providers. Seek other opportunities to share information and provide practical advice and options to those on the cancer journey including men. To do this, Survivors On Purpose, Inc. will need to enhance its capacity to collect current and updated information about TNBC and to disseminate it.
Secure Ongoing Funding. As Survivors On Purpose, Inc. is a not for profit organization, it needs to attract ongoing community support by way of donations, fundraising opportunities and sponsorships. In turn, Survivors On Purpose, Inc. needs to increase its profile as an important resource in the local community with a clear and concise vision and quest that can be readily accessed and ensure all fund-raising activities will enhance its impact and reach.
Build a Sustainable Organization. As grass roots, local organization of breast cancer survivors and supporters, SOP is developing a structured approach to delivering its assistance by developing a sound set of governance rules for planning and financial management that will provide a high degree of confidence in its activities. Our subcommittees will focus on five areas: Education and Support (including hospital visits and continued support, and community awareness), Volunteers, Events, Advocacy, and Fundraising.