( ENSPIRE Interview ) FTBOU Co-founder Talks Personal Fight with Breast Cancer, Organization Goals, and Advocacy
ENSPIRE Contributor: Claya Davis
After winning her own fight against the horrible disease, Marissa Thomas is on a mission to support fellow breast cancer survivors and prove that women can continue living their best life regardless of the circumstance. Her organization, For The Breast of Us, helps breast cancer survivors of color by educating them, helping them navigate the complicated healthcare system, and redefining life after the disease.
Marissa Thomas talked with ENSPIRE about FTBOU and her personal experience with breast cancer.
How did your own fight with breast cancer shape your advocacy?
My experience with breast cancer has definitely shaped how I advocate for myself and other black and brown women diagnosed with breast cancer. I know what it’s like not to have medical professionals not listen to your concerns, and even when you’re afraid to speak up, it empowers you to do so as your life depends on it. When you stand up for yourself and elevate the voices of those around you, it reminds you that you are not alone, and the ones who came before us paved the way, so it’s up to us to pay it forward.
Do you think your own battle with breast cancer enables you to better understand the women you work with?
Yes, I know what it’s like to cannot find women like you, to who you can relate. Being diagnosed with breast cancer can feel isolating. But, it’s one reason For the Breast of Us was born: Black and Brown Women can connect, share resources, read each other’s experiences with breast cancer and advocate for their health and well-being.
How did FTBOU come about? Was it an individual effort or the result of collaboration?
FTBOU was founded by myself and fellow breast cancer thriver Jasmine Souers. We noticed a lack of representation of Black and Brown women within the breast cancer space. From online communities to images and clinical trials, most of what you would see were white women. We wanted to change that because we knew, like us, Black and Brown women were being diagnosed with aggressive forms of breast cancer but had nowhere to go to connect with other women like them and share resources. We wanted to change that, so For the Breast of Us was born.
What are the various ways the FTBOU supports Black women through their battles with breast cancer?
We support all Women of Color by providing online webinars with different thought leaders in the community, sharing financial and mental support resources, and access to other platforms for breast cancer patients we rarely know about. We also have a private Facebook group specifically for Women of Color affected by breast cancer where women can connect with others in the same situation. On our site, breastofus.com, you’ll read stories from real women with authentic experiences that you can relate to. And on our podcast, Baddie 2 Baddie, you’ll hear thrivers explain the things and resources that have helped them thrive.
From your experience, can you list some unique challenges Black women face when fighting breast cancer?
Black women are misdiagnosed because of their concerns not being addressed, like when they find a lump or their pain not being taken seriously. We also are not referred to specialists as often as our counterparts, like breast surgeons who are familiar with operating on melanated skin or plastic surgeons. Last, we are rarely offered clinical trials as medical providers believe we don’t want these options.
What is the most important thing for ENSPIRE readers to know about you and FTBOU?
The core belief of For the Breast of Us is to elevate the experiences of Women of Color through education and advocacy and empower them with the best accurate information so they can make informed decisions regarding their health and breast cancer treatment. The most important aspect is that we can not do this work alone. We need the help of everyone to share the stories of women in our community and get involved with events like our We Run This Gala to support and share our mission to continue helping all Women of Color diagnosed with breast cancer.
How can readers get involved with FTBOU and help your efforts?
Currently, For The Breast of Us needs your help with our fundraiser to provide financial scholarships to women of Color diagnosed with breast cancer. These donations will also help us to continue providing free meet-ups and gifts to those in our community. You can easily donate any amount here: Keep A Breast Give Back Grants. Also, sharing any of the stories on our site breastofus.com and sharing episodes of our podcast Baddie 2 Baddie so that women of Color diagnosed with breast cancer have resources to help them.
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