In the United States, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. It is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women, affecting them more than any other type of cancer. However, breast cancer diagnoses exceed that of other racial groups when it comes to Black women, making their mortality rates the highest at 31%.
Following her 40th birthday, Kanesha Broadwater received her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017. At the time she learned of it, the cancer had already progressed to stage three. So Kanesha knew that she needed to act immediately to treat the illness. With her being an oncology nurse at Northwestern Hospital, she was, “perfectly positioned” to deal with it.
“I was fortunate in that I’ve been a nurse in radiation oncology for 11 years now. So I had working relationships with the surgeons and radiation oncologists. So I was already familiar with all the players that would soon become a part of my team”, Kanesha says. Adding, “I had been speaking glowingly of my co-workers from a practitioner side for years. But to be on the other side and witness that as a patient was very, very reassuring.”
Now a cancer survivor, Kanesha has been adamant about staying on top of her treatments. But, once the pandemic started, she found herself in a state of unknown. Unable to schedule her regular surveillance mammograms.
She said, “From a practitioner’s side, we didn’t know what was safe to continue offering to our patients. So many of the outpatient settings closed because we weren’t sure how to proceed. One of them being mammography which was only available in emergent situations. So for me, I had to figure out how routine visits would go with my physician. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t fall too far out of the routine of scheduling things. And although my mammograms were postponed, I could continue my cancer care.”
After having gone through this experience, Kanesha partnered with Get It Done, a Pfizer initiative that encourages cancer patients to talk with their physicians. There, they can learn about guidelines of questions to ask in light of the pandemic and the intersection of receiving cancer care to continue their routine treatments and screenings.
“I get excited encouraging and educating patients on how to resume their screenings. Getting patients screened during “normal times'” was already a struggle. We saw an increase in missed screenings during the pandemic, which was very worrisome. But through Get It Done, I want to break down the barriers that made it difficult for people to get screened.”
As a Black woman, Kanesha understands the health disparities facing communities of color. Unfortunately, compared to caucasian counterparts, treatment for Black cancer patients is minimal, making them more susceptible to death and a lack of proper care at alarming rates.
Kanesha says, “The visibility of women of color on the health spectrum from diagnosis to survivorship is so important. The statistics around the disparities in health care for women of color are often the only thing presented in the media. Seeing a cancer survivor who is a person of color adds context, nuance, and –ultimately- hope to this experience.”
For more information on Get It Done, visit https://www.thisislivingwithcancer.com/get-it-done.
Contributing Writer Racquel Coral is a national lifestyle writer and journalist based in Chicago, Illinois. Find her on social media @withloveracquel.