our story

Meet carlene, Founder & CEO

Carlene-99
Carlene-99

Growing up, I was always faced with serious health issues. Checking in and out of the hospital for uncommon, life-changing illnesses became the norm. Jokingly, I was known as the "sickly one" among my siblings because when they would catch the common cold, I would catch something outlandish like Rheumatic Fever. By the time I entered college, I thought I had finally overcome my illnesses. Unfortunately, only a year after graduating, my truest test of strength came at the age of 22, when I was diagnosed with stage 2b Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

 

After receiving the most devastating news of my life, I did what most young people would - googled my never-ending questions looking for answers. I scoured the internet for everything cancer related, but I began to realize that the keywords I searched became very specific. Questions like "How do you get Hodgkin's Lymphoma?" "How to take care of natural hair during chemo?" "How many other people my age suffer from this type of cancer?" or "Is this cancer common among people of color?" It quickly became clear to me that many of my questions couldn’t be answered as there weren’t many sites that discussed the experience of young cancer patients of color.

 

The feeling only intensified as each trip to my treatment center felt extremely lonely. I would look around the waiting room for someone my age to relate to, but everyone was at least 20 years older than me. I not only felt disconnected from my friends and family who couldn’t fully understand the depths of what I was experiencing but it was hard for me to relate to the resources provided as there were no images of people who looked like me on the cover. This inspired me to provide a platform where young women of color battling cancer and caregivers would feel comfortable sharing their stories and connecting with others suffering from this unfortunate disease; a site that speaks directly to that young woman sitting in the waiting room, searching for answers.

 

The battle is not yours to fight alone.

Tracy Stewart, In Loving Memory

Diagnosed with breast cancer in her 20's, Carlene's cousin Tracy encountered the most difficult challenge of her young adult life. Because of the many cultural stigmas and misconceptions that surround the disease in black and brown communities, Tracy chose not to share her diagnosis with many of her family and friends. She went through treatment options with the support of her mother and brother but urged them to be silent about her decisions. Afraid that she would burden others by revealing her diagnosis and believing she had everything under control, Tracy chose to face the overwhelming process of finding treatment options with minimal support, resources, and community. In February of 2012, close friends and family who were unaware of her silent battle were in shock when Tracy had unexpectedly fallen gravely ill. After a week in the hospital, Tracy passed away at the age of 31 from metastatic breast cancer. This loss took a heavy toll on her loved ones and was one of the driving forces for developing Cancerversity.