Woman speaks out after 11 people in her family get breast cancer

Wednesday, 16 August 2017, 12:03:34 PM. 'I felt like the monster was chasing us,' she told ABC News.

A Pennsylvania woman has made it her mission to raise awareness for the devastation that breast cancer can cause after 11 women in her family -- including herself -- have been diagnosed with the disease.

"I felt like the monster was chasing us and now it's close. I'm thinking to myself, 'I may be next,'" Felicia Johnson told ABC News' Robin Roberts of watching the women in her family, who span three generations, be diagnosed with breast cancer. Johnson opened up to Roberts as part of a new digital series on WebMD, "Advanced Breast Cancer: Courage, Comfort and Care With Robin Roberts."

Johnson added that she is especially trying to encourage a more open conversation about the disease within the African-American community. Black women in the U.S. were more likely to die of breast cancer than any other race or ethnicity group, according to data released in 2014 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Our culture as African-American people, we're very, very private," Johnson said. "We keep things hidden, so there was just silence."

Johnson said this is what partly what inspired her to speak out so openly about her own experience with the disease that has waged a war on her family.

Dr. Lisa Newman, the director of the Breast Cancer Oncology Program at the Henry Ford Cancer Institute, said that Johnson's work is important as an especially deadly form of breast cancer, known as triple-negative, is more common within the African-American community.

"We know that triple-negative breast cancer is twice as common in African-American women compared to white American women," Newman said, adding that she is researching possible causes for this alarming statistic.

Johnson said she feels her advocacy work is important because "without information you suffer."

"You want to give yourself the best opportunity that science has to fight your disease," she added.

Johnson also says she hopes to use her own story of survival to encourage other woman who may be afflicted with the disease.

"She needs what you went through so she can see ... that there's hope," Johnson said. "When I told someone that I have stage 4, when I told someone I had triple-negative, and they see that I'm alive ... OK, there's hope."

The full episodes for the digital series "Advanced Breast Cancer: Courage, Comfort and Care With Robin Roberts" can be seen on the WebMD website.

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