5 breast cancer survivors who fought back

CLUTCH - Breast cancer is a voracious disease. But for all of the lives claimed, there are 2.6 million survivors. Take a look at five of these warrior women who have used their plights to help their fellow troopers...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Breast cancer is a voracious disease responsible for almost 40,000 deaths in 2011. But for all of the lives claimed, there are 2.6 million survivors that have faced the beast and won. We commend them and respect their battle scars.

Take a look at five of these warrior women who have used their plights to help their fellow troopers.

Karen Eubanks Johnson is a survivor and the founder of Sisters Network® Inc., an organization that assists African-American women diagnosed with breast cancer. Johnson created the foundation in 1994 after she realized that there was a lack of “sisterhood in traditional organizations, a staggering breast cancer mortality rate for African Americans and limited culturally sensitive material.”

SNI is considered the sole African American breast cancer organization that specifically addresses our needs. It provides medical care and moral support to their more than 3,000 members and their families. There are also 42 affiliate chapters run by survivors. Jackson has also developed beneficial initiatives including The Gift for Life Block Walk® and the Pink Ribbon Awareness Project.

In October 1990, Reona Berry and nine other fighters banded together to create the African-American Breast Cancer Alliance, Inc., a non-profit organization that is “dedicated to building and sharing awareness, connections, education, resources and support for African American/Black women, men, families and communities affected by breast cancer.”

AABCA has used its influence to promote early detection and treatment among black women while also counseling current patients. Two of the founders are deceased, but Berry and her cohorts still promote the mission of the organization through ambassadorship and grassroots efforts.

Debra Brown decided to fill a void that often plagues black women cancer survivors: finding suitable, fashionable wigs. With assistance from friends and volunteers – including churches – in her Indiana community, she collected more than 200 wigs for the Cancer Services by Northeast Indiana. Brown is continuing her mission, telling her local newspaper that she never thought the response would be positive.

“I thought maybe I’d get about 50 [wigs],” Brown told the Journal Gazette. I always thought people didn’t react to these things, but now I know they do. The feeling I have now is gratefulness. I am so grateful.”

Denise Roberts was diagnosed with breast cancer at 35, after spending three years convincing her doctor to perform a mammogram. Rather than adhering to her request, the physicians told her that she wasn’t old enough and that her exhaustion and hair loss were due to the stress of having young children.

After a modified mastectomy and a cancer-free status, Roberts has chosen to shine a spotlight on the young, black women often forgotten in the breast cancer struggle. The Denise Roberts Breast Cancer Foundation advocates for mammograms on younger women by dispelling the myth that the illness only impacts older women.

Edna Campbell is a retired WNBA superstar, who was diagnosed with breast cancer while playing in her second season with the Sacramento Monarchs. Despite her diagnosis, Campbell continued to live as normal a life as possible while undergoing treatment. She played for the Monarchs when she was physically able, but had a flexible resting schedule.

The WNBA recognized the importance of Campbell’s strength by appointing her as the national spokesman for its anti-cancer efforts with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Since retiring from the WNBA in 2006, Campbell has continued her advocacy for breast cancer with The Breast Cancer Recovery Manual, a memoir that also gives tips for making a full recovery.