How To Be A Better Supporter Q&A With Jessica Florence
Tell us a little bit about yourself, pre and post-diagnosis.
My name is Jessica Florence. I am a 4th-year architecture student at Florida A&M University. In 2016, I was diagnosed with stage 3A breast cancer at the early age of 22. I am HER2+ with no family history of breast cancer. Four years later, I am now diagnosed with stage 4 advanced metastatic breast cancer. A lot has changed since my first diagnosis. I am more aware of the importance of time and patience. I lived with a lot of depression and anxiety so I had to get into a routine of diet and exercise, studying, and praying to get me through. My goal is to continue to educate others on breast health and to become an architect.
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Tell us about your cancer experience.
I felt the world literally spinning when I was diagnosed. I felt like I wasn’t being taken seriously because, according to doctors, I was “too young” to have breast cancer. This led to a lifelong diagnosis of breast cancer that could have been prevented if the doctors would have just listened. I’ve also endured systemic racism during my journey. It’s quite frustrating because black patients with breast cancer who are in poverty or isolated lack funds and support. I was introduced to a hyperbaric chamber by a family member who owns a recovery center to try a holistic approach to healing. Cancer cannot survive in oxygen, and the chamber or (HBOT) involves breathing nothing but oxygen. Its main use is to treat diving-related illness, but it may help heal people with other conditions such as cancer. I asked my doctor why it wasn’t recommended. His response was because it was too expensive, as if I couldn’t afford it or I had no way to pay for the treatment.
What never failed to make your day during treatment?
A lot of different things can make your day or make you smile during treatment. It could be as simple as a card, a warm hug (pre-pandemic), care packages, or prayers. It never failed to make my day during treatment.
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If you could tell new supporters one thing NOT TO DO, what would it be?
I would tell new supporters not to say, “I’m sorry this happened to you” or “let me know if you need anything” because most times, you’re already feeling bad for yourself and afraid to ask anyone for help. Also, with cancer patients, you can’t take anything personally. If we are not up to talking or hanging out, there’s always a good reason, but don’t hesitate to still ask and offer the invitation or simply ask if the person is okay.
If you could tell new supporters one thing TO DO, what would it be?
If I could tell new supporters one thing to do is to educate yourselves on cancer and how it affects people mentally, physically, and emotionally. You will then know what to do and say to someone going through cancer.
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- Read You Just Found Out Your Friend Has Cancer – Now What?
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