National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Jennifer Thompson | 10/12/2011, 5 p.m.

Krystal Toliver, 22, and Bridgette Bryant, 24, never thought much about the strong impact Breast Cancer had on society until it affected them personally.

Toliver, lost her mother and grandmother within four years of one another after breast cancer diagnosis. Her mother, Dorcas Toliver, died in July 2007 and her grandmother, Glenda Callegari, died in February 2011.

Toliver's mother died three weeks after being diagnosed, and her grandmother died two months after being diagnosed. Both were diagnosed at the most advanced point in the course of the disease, stage four, and their bodies would not respond to any of the treatments.

With her mom dying at age 46 and her grandmother at 66, Toliver has grown to realize there is no age limit when it comes to diagnosing breast cancer. "A lot of women do not like to talk about breast cancer until it affects someone close to them, then they began to see it is a major issue. We must be aware of our bodies as women and make changes so that we can decrease incidence rates among White women and decrease mortality rates among African American women," says Toliver.

Since the passing of her mother and grandmother, Toliver said she has become traumatized at the idea of loosing both her mother and grandmother so close to each other. "I am really afraid to go to the doctor about anything, because I'm afraid that I will receive bad news. I don't go as regular as I should," says Toliver.

As a public health major, she is informed about how important it is to practice and maintain good health; she promotes it to others but is afraid to do it for herself.

With her mother and her grandmother serving as the backbone of her family, Toliver's perspective on life has drastically changed. She had to grow up faster than expected, because she has to be there for her younger brother. She also feels the pressure of not showing any signs of weakness, but feels compelled to be strong for the rest of her family. "I would definitely say that it has made me a stronger woman, I feel like I can take on any challenge, because nothing is worse than losing a mother and a grandmother. I have prayed a lot and humbled myself," says Toliver.

Bryant's, grandmother, Josephine Bryant, passed away on August 28, 2010, and Bryant said she had not understood the reality of breast cancer and the impacts it has on women's lives, particularly African American women, until she experienced the death of her grandmother.

Bryant's grandmother was diagnosed a year and six months before she passed away, and the tumors associated with breast cancer made it difficult for her to respond to the treatment.

"I really thought nothing about it until my grandmother was diagnosed and I saw what she went through. It became real to me that so many women are dying of this particular cancer," says Bryant.

Understanding the reality of breast cancer after the death of her grandmother, made Bryant believe it is important for her to check and be aware of the symptoms for of the disease, but she explains she still hasn't changed her health habits. "Cysts run in my family, so I do a self examination once in a while but not as often as I should," says Bryant.