Trials Of Color

This afternoon, I want to take a few minutes of your time to share my journey with you.

May 27, 2015, this day was a defining moment in my life. And as this day is drawing near, I can still imagine what took place on that day.

I had walked into the hospital here in Virginia for my routine mammogram and right there, I was given a breast cancer diagnosis. It wasn’t merely a case of breast cancer. I was delivering a Triple Negative Breast Cancer diagnosis. I had no lumps or bumps, and no family history of cancer.

I’m here sharing with you about my eight-year cancer journey. As much as I have observed friends’ deaths, I have also witnessed the death of my brother, Clarence Hannonwhose birthday is supposed to be this Friday.

I’ve also met a lot of cancer survivors, which I’m glad to be a part of. To summarize, being diagnosed with cancer is not always a death sentence.

Seeing the word Triple Negative after being told I had TNBC, I was under the notion that it had to be good because everything else was negative.

I can still see my oncologist’s surgeon shaking his head right now. That is not acceptable. I inquired as to why. “Because it’s negative,” he said.

He further said that there was nothing to target and he went on to explain TNBC.

I asked him if he could just remove the breast and remove the cancer. He explained that removing my breast was unnecessary, since the cancer survival rate was the same, and that the cancer may return.

This was my first encounter with the world of cancer. It was a fight for survival and a new way of life.

If you give me a chance to interact with everyone on this platform, you will notice that the majority of us know someone who has died from cancer.

For me, who comes from a financial background, numbers are more important than science; yet, this is about survival, and I had to learn about science, medicine, remission, and cancer lingo quickly through the Internet, media, and queries. I then sought a second and third opinion from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centerand Johns Hopkins Medicineto ensure that there were no errors in my cancer diagnosis.

When I found out there was no mistake, I returned to Richmond and began treatment. Which consisted of lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation. Once I completed treatment I developed Neuropathy on my hands and feet.

I never really understood what it means to fight, but I learned this throughout these phases of my life.

Two years later, I remembered asking the doctor how I would know if the cancer would come back. One doctor told me it was a crapshoot and another doctor told me to go home and wait. Waiting for my cancer to return was not an option for me.

This did not make sense to me. I was curious about the causes and cure of this deadly disease. I remembered watching a program on television, it was TNBC Day and to my greatest surprise the program was about a clinical trial. I immediately jumped up, called the number and about two weeks later, I was accepted in that clinical trial program. However, the trial was in California and I had to drive all the way from Richmond to this trial for three years.

But then, I noticed something, of all the clinical trial participants, I didn’t see anyone that looked like me on the cancer trial. I was concerned and when I checked, only 4.5% African American have been participants in clinical trials within the last 16 years. The question about diversity and inclusion in clinical studies was begging for answers. and this is why Trials of Colorwas founded in 2022.

For me, #clinicaltrials gives people a chance to live again. With this in mind, I thought, if there is something I can do to help others, it has to be onboarding on different research and advocating for diversity and inclusion in clinical trials.

I would not say I have achieved it but I would say, I am satisfied with the progress so far in the fight for cancer research, prevention and education of this disease.

What interests me about this journey, is the fact that I have the opportunities and privilege to help others avoid and prevent being diagnosed with this deadly disease at an advanced stage. And when diagnosed, they are well guided through treatment.

A message to researchers, pharmaceutical companies, scientists and policy makers. You are doing a good job!

But I believe you can do even better. We should not be a hindrance to finding a cure or best treatment option for all races regardless of which background patients come from. Collectively, we can do this.

Have you been diagnosed, don’t worry, you will be alright!