When Jasmine Souers and Marissa Thomas met on Instagram in 2018, the two young breast cancer survivors had no idea their friendship would lead to something bigger than both of them.
After meeting in person at the 2019 Young Survival Coalition Summit, Jasmine and Marissa realized they shared similar passions and experiences as both young survivors and black survivors.
“I started blogging about my experience as a 26-year-old black woman with breast cancer because it was hard to find women that looked like me online,” said Jasmine. “Finding young women was hard enough but finding imagery and stories of black women was even more rare. After attending a session on diversity and inclusion at the summit with Asian and Latina women, I realized all of us felt displaced in this community and I vowed to be the person to help change that dynamic.”
What started as a conversation, quickly became a plan to create For the Breast of Us, the first website dedicated to sharing stories of women of color affected by breast cancer — stories that connect, inspire and educate other women.
The two talked daily and worked closely for months, though they live far apart — Jasmine, in Jacksonville, FL, and Marissa, in Seattle, Washington. In addition to elevating the collective voice of marginalized women in the breast cancer community, they have bigger goals in mind.
“When I was in active treatment, not only did I not see young women, but a big barrier for myself was, I didn’t see women that looked like me,” said Marissa. “Women who I can relate to and vice versa. I thought ‘I know they are out there but where are they and how can I connect with them to make sure they have access to the same resources that I do.’ Being a medical provider, I understand how to navigate the healthcare system and medical terminology, but most do not. This is a barrier that I know for a fact affects outcomes.”
African American women alone are 4x more likely to die from breast cancer than their white counterparts. According to Oncology Professor, Dr. Elizabeth Gage-Bouchard, “Patients who have a good social support system tend to have better outcomes.”
“What we’ve found is that peer support, which includes help and advice from other people who have had similar experiences with cancer, either as patients or caregivers, is a very helpful kind of support and an important part of a good cancer support system,” said Gage-Bouchard in the article.
For the Breast of Us aims to connect women of color through shared experiences and provide the resources, tools and support needed to navigate their difficult journeys.
“Yeah, we really took the research to heart as we mapped out what we wanted to accomplish with For the Breast of Us. Ultimately, we want to help change the trajectory for women of color affected by breast cancer in terms of health outcomes,” said Jasmine. “When we read poor communication was a barrier to quality treatment for women of color, we came up with the idea of a resource library that includes a “cancer term” dictionary. We know, personally and through research, communities of color have little trust for the medical field, but research is the key to finding effective treatments. So we’re sharing stories and information regarding research and clinical trials, as well.”
The response to the site has been overwhelmingly positive with the site receiving more than 4,500 views in its first month.
“I know when people see the tagline on For the Breast of Us, they automatically think this is for African-American women only,” said Marissa. “I’m here to say, that’s the furthest from the truth. This site is not for African American women; it’s for Hispanic women, Asian women, Native-American women and biracial women, too. All the colors. The women who have a story to share, but who are either too afraid or think no one wants to listen — Jasmine and I are making this platform for them.”
The website is only the beginning as a podcast is also in the works. To learn how you can share your experiences as a woman of color affected by breast cancer, visit breastofus.com/share.