RICHMOND, Va. -- Stacey Everett's mother is a breast cancer survivor. Because of that family history, Everett has been doing breast self exams since she was 16 years old and doing regular mammograms since age 26. In 2010, Everett had a gut feeling something wasn’t right.
“When I first found the lump I was kind of turned away because they were, 'Oh, you're fat. You're Black. You're 40. It's just a cyst. Don't worry about it,” Everett said.
A year later, Everett was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“With that in mind, I said you know what there wasn't enough information out there for me but I need to make sure there's more information out there for others because what happened to me shouldn't happen to anyone else,” Everett said.
She is one of 52 Community Champions at VCU Massey Cancer Center. It’s a program where survivors and caregivers work alongside researchers.
“They have a lot of expert knowledge around what works and what doesn't work,” Maria Thomson, the director of community engagement and research at Massey, said.
Maria Thomson said Community Champions are so important to the work that researchers do.
“To give feedback and insight into 'yes, this aligns with what the community will find meaningful or have you thought of this,” Thomson said.
“We need to make sure that research represents us,” Everett said.
Community Champions like Everett share their own cancer experience with researchers, help to get more cancer patients in clinical trials and they take the message out into the community.
“If we're not anything else, we're informed about what's happening in our community and what we can do to eradicate this horrible disease,” Everett said.
Click here if you’re interested in the Community Champion program.