FAMU student diagnosed with breast cancer at 22

An architecture major, Jessica Florence was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago.
Photo Submitted by Jessica Florence.

“To appreciate sun, you gotta know what rain is.” – J. Cole

Jessica Florence found out what rain was when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 at age 22. In late November of 2015, Florence found a lump in her breast.

According to 2012-2014 case diagnoses, the American Cancer Society reports that between the ages of 20-30 one in 1,700 women risk being diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I discovered a lump in my breast and at the time it was about the size of a gum ball,” Florence said.

The FAMU architecture major said she made her rounds to a couple of doctors before being officially diagnosed.

“I went to the doctors to have it checked and they told me that it could just be fibroids and that maybe there were just some inconsistencies in my breast tissue. The second visit called for an ultrasound because it had grown up to four centimeters in diameter, but again they told me it was just fibrosis”, Florence said.

Florence hadn’t prepared herself for what was to come over the next few months.

“In May of 2016, I decided to take a few classes at Florida State College at Jacksonville upon my anticipated return to FAMU, but on May 25, 2016, I was officially diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer by a doctor who biopsied the tumor in my right breast,” Florence said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016 breast cancer rates among black and white women, breast cancer rates were higher among black women who are younger than 60 years old, but lower among black women who are 60 years old or older.

There is nothing that could have prepared Florence mentally, physically or emotionally for the journey she was about to embark on.

“This was the most traumatic thing that had ever happened to me. I not only lost my hair, but I also lost my right breast as well. I went through 10 months of chemotherapy, six rounds of radiation, a bilateral mastectomy, and breast reconstruction. I had very low confidence, confused and emotionally unstable about where and what my life would be. I still tried to pursue school that following year (2017) in hopes to keep myself determined, busy, and focused but it failed tremendously,” she said.

Florence learned a lot about life and about herself.

“I learned that you have to take life one day at a time and that mastering the power of positive thought cures all the frustration, worry, and guilt,” she said.

Florence wants to encourage everyone who must, fight this fight.

“You can do it. Don’t give up. You’ve got this, I promise,” Florence said.

Faith Platts, an alumna of FAMU, is inspired by Florence’s story. She knows with faith and the right attitude you can fight through anything.

Platts said, “I’ve seen her display of courage, faith and optimism and it is absolutely unwavering. She is beyond beautiful and I am extremely proud to see a fellow Rattler winning.”