Health + Wellness

Breast Cancer Survivor to Black Women Facing Obstacles: “Don’t Dive Up”


inflammatory breast cancer
Photo via The Washington Post (Tiffany Davis)

For most people, it is completely normal to have one breast that is larger than the other. However, for Katrece Nolen, it was a cause for concern.

She made the discovery while she was crawling on the floor with her youngest child, who was a toddler at the time.

Immediately knowing something was off, she called her doctor, who was out that day. The receptionist offered her an appointment at a later date, but Nolen knew her discovery needed immediate attention.

“I said, ‘No, I need to see somebody today,’ ” Nolen recalls.

Black women and self-advocacy

Nolen was officially diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, an especially aggressive form of breast cancer in 2013. Fortunately, she beat her cancer diagnosis. Now, nine years into her remission, the 47-year-old is more passionate than ever to share the importance of self-advocacy for Black women.

“The most important thing about self-advocacy is don’t give up,” Nolen shares. “You have to push through the despair to get the test results, the diagnosis and the appointments you need.”

This is a message that is extremely crucial for Black women who have a 41 percent higher death rate, despite having a 4 percent lower incidence of breast cancer than white women, according to the American Cancer Society.

According to the report, this is in large part due to millions of low-income Black people being exposed to environmentally toxic neighborhoods and severely limited access to health care, quality food and good schools.

This is just one factor, however, even Blacks that have the resources often get dismissed or have to fight to get adequate care.

RELATED: 5 Commonly Overlooked Signs of Breast Cancer

Facing her obstacles

Nolen an entrepreneur, civic activist and book author, has health insurance, work flexibility and access to the best medical facilities and still remembers having to fight for the care and respect she deserved after her mammogram and an ultrasound exam showed inconclusive results.

“So, a couple of weeks later, I was trying to button my shirt and I couldn’t button my shirt, it had

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