South Jersey woman living with metastatic breast cancer now helping others beat the odds

Sarah Bloomquist Image
Friday, October 15, 2021
Local woman with metastatic breast cancer helping others beat the odds
A South Jersey woman living with metastatic breast cancer is using her time to help others beat the odds against breast cancer.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk returns to Cooper River Park in Pennsauken, New Jersey this Sunday, October 17th. The walk supports the many programs and research of the American Cancer Society.

Breast cancer treatment is evolving. New strategies are making surgery less traumatic and new drugs are giving those with metastatic cancer more quality time.

A South Jersey woman is using that time to help others beat the odds against breast cancer.

Jamil and Rick Rivers are busy settling into their dream home - a project that might not have happened. Rick is a two-time cancer survivor and Jamil lives with metastatic breast cancer.

Jamil got the news in 2018, after tests for a chronic cough.

"It showed I had lesions all over my body," said Jamil.

Jamil Rivers talks about the disparities black woman often face when it comes to cancer treatments and awareness.

A mammogram revealed the cancer's source.

"I had stage 4 metastatic from the start," she said.

The mom of three was too young for regular mammograms and breast changes she'd noticed earlier were chalked up by doctors as benign.

The diagnosis sent her into intense chemotherapy and she also had her ovaries removed. After 10 months came good news.

"I was finally able to reach that 'no evidence of disease,' where all the solid tumors dissipated," said Jamil.

To keep cancer at bay, Jamil takes oral drugs to disrupt any circulating cancer cells and to limit estrogen, plus aspirin and a statin to help the other drugs work better. Alternative therapies like meditation and supplements help, too.

During her chemo, Jamil used a host of American Cancer Society resources to lighten the burden on her family.

"American Cancer Society would pick me up from work, take me to chemo, and then bring me home," she said.

In addition to full-time work, Jamil is now a vocal patient advocate, appearing on Pat Croce's Healed gatherings and founding the Chrysalis Initiative, which aims to erase racial biases in breast cancer care and support.

"The disparity is that we're dying at a higher percentage of breast cancer than white women," she said.

Sunday's Making Strides Walk at Cooper River Park in Pennsauken raises funds for those support services Jamil relied on. So sign up, lace up your shoes, and join the walk to help more patients like Jamil get through cancer.

To register for the American Cancer Society Making Strides Walk, CLICK HERE.