CINCINNATI -- Even doctors were sometimes surprised to see Erica Holloman stand up when they called her name for chemotherapy. Most people expected the patient to be her mother, Josie Holloman-Adams, who waited with her for every session.
"You'd see the confusion in people's faces, like, ‘She looks so young,' " Holloman-Adams said.
Holloman, a PhD student at the University of Louisville, was diagnosed with breast cancer at 31. Her cancer, her mother said, was triple negative -- a kind that did not respond to either hormone or drug therapy but could instead only be treated with chemotherapy. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, 15 percent of breast cancer is triple negative, and triple-negative cancers are more likely to recur than other kinds. It's also little-understood, according to Holloman-Adams.
"We've met people that work in oncology and they've never heard of triple-negative breast cancer," she said. "Every time that we go anywhere and talk about It, you can see people start to Google and start looking it up."
Erica Holloman went three rounds with her own cancer before her death at age 35. Even while she went through chemotherapy, her mother said she continued to do the things she loved: Read, write and create beautiful things. Necklaces she designed are still on sale at Paolo Modern Jeweler.
And her mother is working to keep her legacy alive, too. She and other members of the Erica J. Holloman Foundation work across Ohio to raise knowledge of and funding for triple-negative breast cancer. With the help of State Sen. Cecil Thomas, they created a triple-negative breast cancer license plate they hope can spread awareness beyond the state's border.
"I just want people to know that even though treatment and they way people feel about breast cancer has changed, it still has a long way to go, especially for women in the black community," Holloman-Adams said.
Statistics collected by the American Cancer Society indicate black women in the United States, like Holloman, have a cancer-related death rate 14 percent higher than that of white women. Holloman-Adams said she hoped she could encourage everyone, but especially other black women and women under 40, to be proactive about their own health.
"When you have a mother like me who's devastated, most of them are not going to come out and talk," she said. "If we don't talk about it, then who's talking about it?"