For the Breast of Us is a blog and online community for women of color affected by breast cancer. Founded in 2019 by Jasmine Souers and Marissa Thomas, two young Black breast cancer survivors, its mission was to create a welcoming space to help women of color – of all ages and stages after a breast cancer diagnosis – make the rest of their lives the best of their lives.
Recently, group launched its new campaign, #WhenYouSeeUs, in an effort to increase the representation and inclusion of minority breast cancer thrives. The campaign revealed new brand photography featuring its founders and members of its diverse Breast Cancer Baddie Ambassador team by Ride the Wave Photography in Orlando, Florida.
The photos provide a sharp contrast to the mainstream breast cancer narrative centered on the experiences of White women. With photo highlights featured on its website, the community demands for women of color to be truly seen, valued and understood with its campaign.
The idea for the campaign came after Souers and Thomas struggled to find stories and images of women who looked like themselves.
“I remember searching online just a few years ago trying to find images of Black women with breast cancer,” Thomas who was diagnosed with breast cancer at 35 said. “So many of the women in our community did the exact same thing because it’s not easily available.
“Being part of this photo shoot gave us the opportunity to be the women we were once searching for. It’s an amazing feeling to create something that screams ‘You’re not alone!’ It’s a big deal for our community.”
The online community uses the collective power of marginalized communities to empower women of color to share their honest experiences with breast cancer and provides educational content to help them navigate the challenges to accessing quality health care. From living with metastatic breast cancer to taboo topics like sex and intimacy, the group has captured the attention of women going against their cultural norms to keep quiet about health matters.
“Every woman featured in this campaign knows what it feels like to be invisible as a person of color navigating the health system,” said For the Breast of Us cofounder Jasmine Souers, diagnosed with breast cancer at the age 26 after an initial misdiagnosis.
“From the breast cancer campaigns and the cancer center support groups to having our concerns dismissed by our doctors and not being given all of our treatment options. This photo shoot is our way of saying, ‘We’re here, we matter, and we’re done dying in the dark and suffering silence.’ We are living boldly and loudly. And as long as we’re alive, we’ll be fighting to make the journeys easier for the women diagnosed after us.”
Learn more at https://www.breastofus.com/whenyouseeus.
A few things Baddie Ambassadors want people to keep in mind #WhenYouSeeUs:
“When you see us, see the women who came before us, who paid the ultimate sacrifice so we can be here today. When you see us, see women standing on the shoulders of giants, reaching back to be the bridge for those that come after us in hopes that their path will be easier than our own.”
– Marissa, a Black Woman diagnosed with breast cancer at age 35
“When you see us, you must realize many health standards are based on White patients. It is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with our skin, hair, concerns and hesitations due to history of Black people being used as guinea pigs.”
– Keneene, a Black woman diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 40
“When you see us, remember that cancer does not discriminate between age, gender, race, your current location or what phase of life you are in. Why then does the health care options we receive depend on how we look?”
– Bhumika, an Indian immigrant diagnosed with breast cancer at 36, three months after delivering her only child
“When you see us, please take our pains and medical concerns seriously. Having our important medical issues to be dismissed or taken for granted by a medical personnel when we understand our bodies and know that there is something wrong, is a horrible feeling.”
– Terlisa, a Black woman who was young and pregnant at diagnosis
“When you see us, you understand waiting to have children should not be stigmatized. Neither should wanting children after breast cancer. I am more than a Black woman who “waited too late in life” to decide to have children. Due to treatments necessary to save my life, I may never have my own biological children.”
– Shoni, a Black and West Indian woman diagnosed at 36 – a motherless child turned into a childless mother
“When you see us, understand that our weight is just one factor. They are not complete indicators of our health; our aches and pains are still quite real. Don’t dismiss our concerns and assume our physical difficulties are simply because we are big girls. We have the same side effects and long term challenges as women of smaller size.”
– Cynthia, a plus-sized baddie with nerve damage, cardiac issues and neuropathy from breast cancer treatment
“When you see us, do not assume that every woman needs breast mound reconstruction to feel whole again. We need to know about and understand all of our reconstruction options to make the right choices for ourselves, not what society deems as acceptable.”
– Ginny, an Asian woman diagnosed at 41 who chose aesthetic flat closure
“When you see us, please acknowledge that we are fighting for our lives and the health of our unborn child. Instead of dismissing us with talks of abortion, please educate yourself about pregnancy-associated breast cancer or refer us to someone more knowledgeable so we can determine the best treatment plan. Remember, we are not guinea pigs, but expectant mothers whose joy shattered due to our cancer diagnosis. Save your pity and apologies and roll out the red carpet so we can enjoy as much of our pregnancy as possible.”
– Niya, a Black woman, diagnosed at 31 while 12 weeks pregnant
“When you see us, understand that we all come from different socio-economic backgrounds, and many times when you think we are refusing treatment, we actually can’t afford it. We are relying on you to give us all the options available. But when you actually see us, we will trust you enough to make whatever you need us to do, happen.”
– Miranda, a Latina, stay-at-home mother of 5 diagnosed at 40
“When you see us, understand that we do not choose to have every moment consumed with “the fight.” We, too, desire to live in the moment – moments that are peppered with joy, pain, hope, fear, power and strength. And while we are strong, we still need support. Often, the best kind of support is seeing that same strength in someone who looks like you.”
– Tova, a Black woman diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer at age 41
“When you see us, understand women of color face multiple barriers, such as gender, racial, ethnic and other disparities. Be an advocate for us as we navigate life with breast cancer.”
– Veronica, a Latinx woman diagnosed with breast cancer at age 49
“When you see us, take our concerns seriously. Don’t dismiss our symptoms, pain or fear. Give us all the information we need to make the best decisions for ourselves with our personal definition of quality of life in mind. We are forced to make life-changing decisions in such short time frames. Make sure we understand the when, why and how things are happening every step of the way. Don’t just make decisions for us or leave us in a constant state of uncertainty when answers are available.”
– Jasmine, a Black woman misdiagnosed at 25 and accurately diagnosed at 26
“When you see us, take our symptoms seriously and don’t treat us like we ‘caused’ our cancer.”
– Christina, a plus-sized Latinx woman diagnosed with breast cancer at 36
“When you see us, do not censor our scars or dismiss us as ‘too young.’ Do not treat us as mere statistics. When you see us, include us.”
– Vanessa, a Latinx woman diagnosed with breast cancer at 24
“When you see us, see a group of unique women working to shift the narrative of a disease impacting women of color in disproportionate rates. See us fighting to be all things and fill many roles to those in our lives. We are friends, sisters, aunts, mothers, partners, professionals, volunteers, advocates and far too many other titles to name. See our refusal to be defined by a breast cancer diagnosis, but instead continuing to live, bring awareness and educate our communities. When you see us, see a legacy of change.”
– Na’Diah, a Black Woman diagnosed with DCIS at age 33