As a young Black woman diagnosed with ER-positive stage 2 breast cancer in 2015, Marissa Thomas sought out support groups — but the only ones she could find were made up predominantly of older white women. “I knew that women of color were being diagnosed with breast cancer, but I didn’t know where to find them,” she says.
This frustration led Thomas, along with cofounder Jasmine Souers, to create For the Breast of Us (FTBOU) in 2019. The organization fills a need that has long been neglected in the breast cancer community: a place for all women of color — Black, Hispanic, Asian or Pacific Islander, and more — who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer “to find support, connect with other women of color diagnosed with breast cancer, and learn how to advocate for themselves to help eliminate the health disparities that exist for them,” Thomas says.
Their goal Thomas, now the sole leader of the organization (Souers left earlier this year to start a different breast cancer nonprofit) remains true to her initial motivation, providing a robust selection of online tools and resources; social media ; and community-building events, both online and in person. Ultimately, Thomas and Souers wanted to make it easier for other women of color with breast cancer than it was when they themselves were diagnosed, by providing access to the information and resources necessary to make more informed decisions about their healthcare, as well as the camaraderie of people with similar experiences.
Services they provide Their website is a hub of helpful information for the women they like to refer to as Breast Cancer Baddies. On it, you can read a blog with stories by people with breast cancer and survivors — or submit a story about your own experience. Learn more about breast surgery and patients’ rights, search clinical trials, read about the latest breast cancer research involving women of color, and find mental health resources on their curated directory of resources.
On their Instagram page @forthebreastofus, they host Instagram Lives on topics like dealing with workplace issues during treatment and navigating relationships after a breast cancer diagnosis. They also produce Baddie 2 Baddie, a podcast in which women share their personal experiences with breast cancer, lifestyle tips, and where to find help. Women of color impacted by breast cancer can join the organization’s private Facebook group Breast Cancer Baddies to connect with its more than 2,500 members.
For the Breast of Us also provides important guidance for those who are not women of color: how to be an ally, adapted from the allyship guide by the political organization Women of Color for Progress (WCP) . But instead of using the term “ally,” the organization deliberately uses the word “accomplice.”
“We chose the word ‘accomplice,’ because an ally stands by your side, but an accomplice rolls up their sleeves and does the hard work with you,” Thomas explains. “That is what women of color really need — someone who is willing to do the hard work, have the hard conversations, and help elevate our voices in areas where we are hardly given the opportunity to be heard and seen.”
Events In October, the organization hosted their first large-scale fundraising event, We Run This Sneaker Gala, which they plan to hold annually. Its purpose is to celebrate breast cancer survivors and honor those who have died of the disease. Anyone can attend, and a portion of the proceeds go toward $500 grants for a select number of women of color in their community to offset the financial strain brought on by living with a cancer diagnosis, as well as to continue to provide programming at no cost to participants.
For the Breast of Us also holds an annual retreat for their Baddie Ambassadors — the more than 30 women who represent the organization through social media and advocacy. They host local meetups in cities nationwide; a schedule of upcoming events is listed on their website’s events page.
Core belief At its core, For the Breast of Us is about community. “It’s by women like you, for women like you,” Thomas says. “It was born out of a need you so badly [have] once you hear the words, ‘You have cancer.’”