theGrio’s 100: Denise Roberts, breast cancer survivor and voice for the voiceless

theGRIO'S 100 - Denise Roberts has survived two different cancers by the age of 45. She then created a foundation to help other men and women under 40 learn about breast cancer and support those diagnosed...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Who is Denise Roberts?

Denise Roberts, 61, is a survivor. At 35 years old with two young children, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

With her strong family history of cancer, Roberts pushed for a mammogram against her doctor’s advice. Two days later, her physician told her that “something” had shown up. She had a biopsy of the questionable tissue and the results were negative.

But her intuition told her otherwise. Her husband, a physician, arranged for the samples to be sent to another laboratory for testing. They were positive. Once she chose to remove her right breast, they found seven more carcinomas that had not been detected.

Ten years later, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer, had life-saving surgery and has been a survivor for 16 years.

Why is she on theGrio’s 100?

The year following her second cancer diagnosis, she founded the Denise Roberts Breast Cancer Foundation (TDRBCF) in order to help underserved populations of women and men of color under 40 who are not usually exposed to breast health education and resources.

Roberts does outreach through health fairs, church events and fundraisers.

TDRBCF has partnered with other community-based organizations to provide mammograms, educational workshops, breast health referrals and supportive services to breast cancer survivors listed on the Foundation’s website.

But, TDRBCF is best known for providing one-on-one support in people diagnosed with breast cancer from diagnosis to treatment.

What’s next for Denise Roberts?

“I will continue to speak to our youth about the importance of knowing and loving their bodies as well as speaking at health seminars across America about the importance of early detection and breast health,” Roberts says.

She also plans to grow TDRBCF’s online presence through an interactive website.

Visit TDRBCF’s current site at