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Janice’s Story: Pain to Passion

To meet Janice Parker is to know the definition of what it means to turn pain into passion. She has lived a life where the topic of breast cancer was never far away. From her mother’s and aunt’s diagnoses – to her own…twice – Janice has found power in her experience. As an advocate for people to participate in Komen’s ShareForCures, Janice believes in the power of diverse groups of individuals in the breast cancer community participating in research. Her journey, marked by resilience, advocacy and unwavering hope in finding cures, is a testament that will inspire anyone lucky enough to hear her speak.  

“My first view of what breast cancer could look like was in the late 90s when I was in my 20s,” Janice recalled. “When my mom was diagnosed, I didn’t know much about it other than the disease affects the breast.”  

“In the African American community there is a culture of keeping things private. Whatever happened in your house, stayed there, so when my mother was diagnosed, we all kept it private,” she shared. “We watched my mother go through what appeared to be the most horrible thing I had ever seen…of course research and treatment at that time weren’t what they are now, but we watched her undergo it all in silence.”  

At the same time, her mother’s sister was also navigating a breast cancer diagnosis but neither sister knew about the other’s condition. It was only after a conversation between Janice and her cousin that they realized both their mothers were undergoing the same cancer diagnosis and treatment, and the sisters could talk about their cancer experience. “They both sadly passed away, but they were able to have a period of time where they could finally be open with one another and have support from someone who understood what the other was going through.” 

Based on her family history, Janice had been getting mammograms regularly for quite some time before her own diagnosis in 2012. “I was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS),” she shared. “Because I was a caretaker for my mother and saw every part of her journey with breast cancer, I was so worried my experience would look just like that. Fortunately, thanks to Komen and research efforts like ShareForCures, my journey looked nothing like my mother’s.” 

“My cancer was stage 0 and I received radiation for it. I participated in a clinical trial for it, too, which is out of the norm for my culture. Because I saw people I loved so dearly suffer in silence, I wanted to speak out and advocate from the moment of my diagnosis, for anyone who might have been navigating theirs in private.”  

As she embarked on her journey through treatment and recovery, Janice discovered a reservoir of strength within herself and from the love of those around her. “I have a loving husband of 30-plus years. He is the love of my life, and I couldn’t have gotten through any of it without him.” 

With each hurdle she faced, she emerged stronger, more resilient, fueled by the unwavering support of her circle and the sheer determination to reclaim her life. “I made a promise to myself I would turn my pain to passion and live my journey out loud.”  

As a breast cancer survivor the first time around, Janice continued to uplift others going through their own breast cancer experiences. She encouraged women in her community to get their mammograms and reminded people they are not alone if they’re diagnosed with breast cancer. As a member of the Komen Circle of Promise group, she spoke to her community and congregation to educate and inform those around her. “If there was an interview, I did it! News stations, newspapers, you name it,” she said.  

“I thought ‘someone has to take the first step in representing the Black community in research and I want to be that person. For myself and for the ones I love and their futures.’”

With her second diagnosis in February 2024, Janice says her drive to get involved and advance research is even stronger. “I had my three children the first time I was diagnosed, but now I have grandchildren as well. My fight is completely different now as it’s for my daughter and my granddaughters,” she remarked.  

“I’ve created a social media page called Janice’s Journey where I can share updates with my friends and family on my treatment and again, I’m living out loud. I want people to see the events that happen throughout an experience with breast cancer, along with being educated about the different drugs and ways you can tackle treatment today. So many people in my community have come to me and said, ‘I never knew this or that’ and they were diagnosed before as well. 

I joined ShareForCures because when I participated in things during my last diagnosis, like the clinical trial for example, no one looked like me,” she went on. “I thought ‘someone has to take the first step in representing the Black community in research and I want to be that person. For myself and for the ones I love and their futures.’”  

It’s not just Janice’s side of the family that has been affected by breast cancer.  

“My mother-in-law was also recently diagnosed with breast cancer,” Janice shared. “So, I’m a part of ShareForCures and I made sure she was, as well.” 

Janice explained, “The process wasn’t hard for someone that has general computer knowledge. You can start the process and pick it back up at another time if you need to. For me, it was about sharing my breast health data in hopes that it could help make informed diagnosis and treatment decisions for my community for years to come.” 

Janice’s story isn’t just about her; it’s about being a voice for her community. “In my community everything goes back to trust. I am so grateful that I can be that trusted source for so many and point them to resources like ShareForCures. If I can help educate those around me about diversity in the breast cancer community, I’m doing my part.” 

Janice is a testament to the power that exists when you find passion in your pain. Through it all, she remains steadfast in her commitment to advocate for change and the power of creating community through shared experience.  

Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.