Suzette Simon lost her mother to breast cancer. In 2020, she learned that she had the disease, as well. Realizing how much harder breast cancer hits Black women, she decided to spread awareness… and to do so with a few giggles.
When Simon received her diagnosis of stage II ER-positive breast cancer, she thought of her mom.
She told the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, “I knew my mom had had breast cancer, so I was always diligent about getting mammograms and staying healthy. But when I got cancer, I was like, ‘What did I do? What have I not learned from her experience?’ I didn’t want her death to be in vain.”
Her mother had a unilateral mastectomy and did not get chemotherapy or radiation when she was first diagnosed more than 30 years ago. She wasn’t insured, didn’t have steady work, and had a child to raise. When her cancer returned, it was metastatic and she ultimately passed away.
Though doctors were unsure if Suzette needed chemo and radiation when she was diagnosed, she thought of her mother’s experience and told her medical team to go for it. She didn’t want to take any chances. She also had a double mastectomy.
The experience gave rise to her @strongblackboobs social media presence. One, as a comedian, she wanted to insert laughter into the experience. Two, she wanted to bring awareness to the disparities facing Black women, from the fact that they have a more than 40% higher mortality rate than white women and that they’re more apt to be diagnosed under the age of 60.
In one of the videos posted to her Instagram, she says, “Cancer gave me attitude. It was a real prick. I had surgery, chemo, hair loss, I got overcooked in radiation, but I was lucky because the numbers aren’t good for Black women. I decided to get into some ‘good trouble’ by making comedy PSAs to fight boob injustice using social media, and there is so much boob injustice that it keeps me really busy.”
In the same video, she goes on to introduce her breasts as ‘Venus and Serena’ and shares her passion for creating the content. Among her videos are silly quotes from her doctors as she went through treatment, light-hearted songs about treatment side effects, and even a little feature on wigs ‘when you’re a broke cancer patient,’ which includes improvisations with toilet paper and a pot.
Through her videos and her nonprofit NY Laughs – which provides free comedy shows throughout New York City – Simon hopes to use her time to bring some smiles.
She told NY1 in New York City, “My mom left the hospital cancer-free, and within five years, she was dead. I’m sort of living my life day-to-day, that I already have one year down and four to go, and what is it you really want to do if you know you have four more years of life? I want to leave this city a better place. And I think that’s what fuels my passion about NY Laughs, because we’ve seen during the pandemic how important laughter is, and it brings communities together. And I want it to last a long time.”
To follow along with Simon’s comedic awareness messages, check out her Instagram.
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