By Cynthia A. Bond Hopson, Ph.D.
“Texas Longhorns women’s hoops great Tiffany Jackson dies.”
The headline made me want to know the rest of the story: “at 37 of breast cancer.” What was a sad story became even sadder that in 2022 women of all ages, colors, and ethnicities are succumbing to this still devastating disease.
For this young woman to die during Breast Cancer Awareness Month seems a shame since this keeps happening. I didn’t know Ms. Jackson or her *stellar college or WNBA professional stats until I got an email from Wiley College as they mourned her untimely death.
Wiley, a small United Methodist-related college in Marshall, Texas was the star of the 2007 Great Debaters movie starring Denzel Washington and is where Ms. Jackson was in her first year as head women’s basketball coach.
Coach Jackson was poised to transform lives, inspire girls, conquer the entire world–now those hopes and dreams were taken by a disease that should’ve been conquered years ago. My friends, breast cancer and its cousins: colon, lung, bone, leukemia, lymphoma, and so on—are taking our friends, family, even our enemies-and during these months when we focus on eradicating these scourges, let’s look at what we know: too many folks are still getting and dying from cancer.
Here are two words we must etch on our forehead: EARLY DETECTION. It saves lives, and like at the airport, when you see something, say something. Don’t just presume it’s nothing—it may be but know before it grows, and ask your doctor anyway. And, if they find nothing, but you know deep down that something’s wrong, get a second opinion.
Two dear friends had aggressive forms of breast cancer and got a diagnosis that made them question what their bodies were saying. They persisted and both are alive today because of their personal advocacy.
This month please schedule your mammogram and refuse to be a statistic. According to the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov) each year in the United States, about 264,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women
and about 2,400 in men, and about 42,000 women and 500 men in the U.S. die each year. Black women have a higher rate of death from breast cancer than White women.
Further, the site lists physical inactivity, obesity—especially after menopause, hormone replacement therapy, certain oral contraceptives, reproductive history, and consuming large amounts of alcohol as key risk factors. If there’s a family history of breast or other cancers, early screenings are critical.
As we live our lives, there will be things we can’t control—when the sun rises and sets, how much rain we get, how that chip got in your windshield, but breast health doesn’t fall in that category. Researchers have been at this for years and they’ve made great strides in diagnosis, treatment, and after care, and they say preventive care and annual checkups work, as does reducing stress and stressors.
This month make it your business to get a mammogram and encourage all the women in your life to get one too. Make breast self-exams a part of your monthly routine and do them like your life depended on them. Honor your body—it is an amazing and sophisticated instrument, and you get one per lifetime. It comes with an expiration date but if today’s not your day, be well, and donate to breast cancer research so Tiffany Jackson’s amazing but brief life is what we remember, not her cause of death.
*She is the only player in Texas women’s hoops history to have at least 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 300 steals and 150 blocks. (www.espn.com)
Cynthia A. Bond Hopson, Ph.D. is a Best selling author, inspirational speaker and consultant. Follow drbondhopson.com;