Lorraine Harris-Fox, mother of Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox, is sure of one thing: doctors may know a lot of things, but they don’t know everything. If she had listened to her doctors, she may not be here today watching her son fulfill his lifelong dream of playing in the NBA.
Medical doctors often advise women to begin getting mammograms at the age of 40. However, data shows that Black women have a higher mortality rate from breast cancer after diagnosis. According to a 2016 CDC study, Black women die from cancer at a 40 percent higher rate than their White counterparts — despite White women being diagnosed more often.
With the Harris-Fox family, waiting until 40 would have been a grave mistake.
In 1997, Ms. Harris-Fox’s sister passed away from breast cancer after being diagnosed at the young age of 28. It was then that Ms. Harris-Fox insisted on getting screened for breast cancer as well.
In March 2000, at the age of 33, doctors found a lump in her breast. She had her son and her deceased sister’s son at home.
The doctor told me that it was cancer,” Ms. Harris-Fox said.
“I paused and then cried for a little bit. I realized I had a 2-year-old (De’Aaron) and my nephew who was 5-and-a-half at the time,” Ms. Harris-Fox added.
“My sister had passed away from breast cancer in 1997. My nephew lost one mom and I wasn’t going to let him lose another mom.”
A resident of New Orleans at the time, Ms. Harris-Fox had to drive to Houston, Texas for additional tests and procedures. Tests showed a mass which doctors agreed to attack with a lumpectomy procedure.
Despite having to do four rounds of chemotherapy and more than 30 radiation treatments, Ms. Harris-Fox still went to work as a District Coordinator for the U.S Department of Treasury virtually every day. The only days she would miss would be chemotherapy days. On the other days, she would go to work an hour early so she could have enough time to get to her treatments. At the time they would send her home with a cocktail mix of medicines they called “The Red Devil.”
“After the medicine at the doctors office, me and my friend would go to the buffet,” Ms. Harris-Fox said. “We would eat everything, because after the treatment you have no test taste buds.”
Support is often talked about as one of the biggest factors to someone’s recovery and ability to get through the rough process. Ms. Harris-Fox attributed part of the success of her recovery to the support that she received from her community.
“I had a lot of support from family, and church friends. They would come clean my house and cook dinner for us so I didn’t have to worry about doing those things during treatment,” said Ms. Harris-Fox, now a 19-year cancer survivor.
With young De’Aaron being only 2 at the time, Ms. Harris-Fox didn’t have to explain anything to him while going through the process — which she thinks helped her focus.
“I think I was in middle school. She has already beat it,” De’Aaron Fox said. “Just finding out what it does to a person, it showed me how strong and courageous she was,” the Kings guard added.
Despite Ms. Harris Fox losing her sister, it gave her son a brother and created a tight-knit family.
“I was never able to meet his mother, but that gave me my brother and who I am today. It has built up our family,” Fox said.
The message from Ms. Harris-Fox is simple: “More Black women are dying because they don’t get the treatment. They may be under-insured or not insured at all. Sometimes we see the lump and don’t get it checked, and keep it moving … You need to be more diligent yourself. If you find a lump, go check it out. Don’t find a lump and then ignore it.”
Her son agrees.
“My mom talks about getting a mammogram early.” Fox said. “She says get checked-up on your own; cancer can come up at any time.”
By RUSSELL STIGER JR. | OBSERVER Correspondent