A Black woman was applauded by thousands for her bravery in undergoing and streaming her breast cancer surgery this week on Facebook Live amid a national awareness month about the deadly illness.
Sonia Johnson, 50, of DeSoto, Texas, said she hoped her live-streamed lumpectomy Thursday to remove a tumor from her breast will be watched by many women. She said she wanted her story to inspire women to get screened for the disease, with African-Americans facing high breast cancer death rates. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“I will be able to say ‘I had cancer,’ Johnson said on Wednesday ahead of her procedure to KTVT, a CBS-owned television station. “Right now I say I have cancer. Tomorrow I will say ‘I had cancer’.”
Johnson, a grandmother, found out she had the tumor last December. She went through chemotherapy and was determined to beat the disease by exercising her faith as well as with a positive attitude.
She chose Dr. Allison DiPasquale as her surgeon to remove her breast tumor at Methodist Charlton Medical Center in Dallas. The high-risk surgery also opened up the door to a learning opportunity, with breast surgeons, radiation oncologists and the executive director of Susan G. Komen Dallas answering questions from viewers on Thursday.
Johnson began recovering after pulling through her surgery and was doing “well,” DiPasquale said via Facebook on Thursday afternoon. Her live-streamed surgery has gotten more than 19,000 views as of Thursday afternoon.
For many Black women, breast cancer often forces them into surgery, especially when they are diagnosed at advanced stages of the illness. Death rates for Black women connected to the disease were much higher than white women, as they are 40 percent more likely to die from it.
Black women were also more often found to have triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive type that frequently returns after treatment. If more women begin sharing their stories or taking Johnson’s lead in live-streaming their surgeries, then they can raise more awareness about the disease and might be able to help save lives.
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