Jessica Florence considers herself a creative and artistic person. She says that’s the reason why she changed her major from industrial engineering to architecture.
Florence, a native of Jacksonville, is now a fourth-year architecture student at Florida A&M University. She is also a breast cancer advocate and battling the cancer that affects 1 in 8 women in the United States.
The American Cancer society reports that breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among women in the United States.
Florence was first diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in May 2016. In April of this year she received her second diagnosis of Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, which is when the cancer spreads from beyond the breast to other parts of the body. Her cancer had spread to her brain.
“I was in shock when I received my diagnosis, I was first diagnosed at 22. When I think about breast cancer, I think about older women in their 40s, 50s and 60s — but not a 22 year old,” Florence said.
In a study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 11 percent of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women younger than 45 years of age.
Florence is a proponent for spreading awareness of self breast cancer exams and what Black women go through dealing with health care.
“Self-exams and getting mammograms are very important,” Florence told The Famuan. “My cancer was detected through self-examination. Being an advocate for your own health is important as well as knowing that Black women receive a different treatment when going through things like this, so you also have to be aware of your genetic makeup as a Black woman. What you’re going to go through is not the same as another women or race going through cancer.”
During her second battle with breast cancer, Florence started a social media campaign called Run with Jess, #JessDoIt. The campaign is based onNike’s famous slogan, “Just Do It.”
Florence said the idea originally was sparked from her love of the movie “Forrest Gump” and the Nike shoe that he wears in the movie.
“I love the movie ‘Forrest Gump’and he had just gone through so much and still kept going, I have always been inspired by the movie and ended up buying a pair of Nike Cortez. It got to a point where I started wearing them everywhere,” she said.
Florence gives credit to her Instagram followers for giving her the idea and supporting the campaign.
“My followers on Instagram were actually the ones that first played on the Nike ‘Just Do It” theme and commenting ‘run jess run’ on my pictures, so I decided go with Jess do it,” Florencesaid.“I tried to make it like a marathon, with the shoe being my running shoe as me running a marathon, me running my race to beat cancer. I’ve had so much support from people buying the shoes, almost like they were running the marathon with me.”
Florence documents her journey with breast cancer on her Instagram, with pictures of her wearing the shoes to radiation and doctor appointments. She most recently started a YouTube channel with videos that show glimpses of what she goes through dealing with breast cancer.
“Her evolution has been so graceful, inspiring and beautiful even through the most painful times that many of us never know about,” said Florence’s friend, Dante Johnson. “Through her pain and suffering as well as her success and delight she remains authentic.”
Florence said she is able to keep fighting regardless of the odds.
“The doctors told me my cancer was terminal and that it would never go away and right now I’ve just found out that I’m stable. So, I’m in the process right now of just trying to beat the odds and I feel like I’ve been doing that,” she said. “I know that there’s something greater than me, I know my purpose is greater and having faith in God is pushing me through this.”
To keep up with Florence and follow her second fight with breast cancer, you can follow her on Instagram @Geneva_la_jade. For more information on breast cancer and self-examinations can be found at www.nationalbreastcancer.org.