For Gabrielle Union, this fight against a cancer that attacks approximately 14,000 Latinas each year is personal.
“My girlfriend Kristen was diagnosed at 32 with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer,” Union told The Root. “She fought it for five years, and in our last conversation she said, ‘Fear is a motherf–ker; it can kill you. It killed me.’ She asked me to continue her fight so her death wouldn’t be in vain.”
Union says her friend, an Afro-Latina, ignored pains in her chest and back for months until she couldn’t sleep. Once she was finally examined by a physician, the cancer had advanced too far. She died in 2010.
Along with Latinas, African Americans have the highest incidence rates among women diagnosed under 40. These statistics are further proof that women’s health and education must continue to be a top priority, or else statements like those made by Republican Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri about abortion and rape earlier this month might derail efforts made by nonprofits like Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Planned Parenthood, as well as activists like Union.
“I saw [Akin’s interview] and I recoiled; he was so raw in his ignorance that I was at a loss, and then I got pissed,” Union said. “It’s incredibly irresponsible to make inflammatory and erroneous statements that stop women from getting the care that they need. The idea that Planned Parenthood is just for kids or it’s an abortion factory are painful myths that stand in the way of many women getting the health care they need.”
Hillary Crosley is the New York bureau chief of The Root.