Ambassador Digital Magazine Editor In Chief Musa Jackson, has an in-depth Q. & A. with Tiffany Denee’ Jones, two time breast cancer survivor, activist, comedienne, philanthropist and founder of PinkChoseMe Foundation, her non profit that spreads breast cancer awareness and supporting women diagnosed with the disease.
Q. Tiffany tell us where you’re from?
A. I’m from Youngstown, Ohio.
Q. What was your childhood like?
A. My childhood was wild. I come both sides of the tracks. But it was good. My family went to Disney World once a year. I went to private school. I was class clown in High School. ( laughs) I was pretty popular. We knew everyone. We had the south side, the eastside, west and north. I was from the Eastside. I’m a Grandma’s girl. I loved my Grandma.
Q. Where did you go to college?
A. I went to Fashion Institute of Technology ( F.I.T.) here in New York. I started late but that’s when I got my start in fashion as a buyer. I started with Roberto Cavalli. And that’s how I became a buyer in the fashion world.
Q. Tell us about your job as a fashion buyer?
A. I started off in sales. Then I jumped into buying then I switched off and on. It’s not the same as it is now. The industry has changed. Back in the day it was more personal. It was kind of like waves of entertainers and celebrities coming through into the industry. It was good, it was different. It wasn’t so robotic. Everything is on the internet.
Q. You love clothes. You have an incredible closet. What are some of your coveted pieces?
A. I love Alexander McQueen. He’s my fav. His fabrics, everything he does. It’s great, straight of the box. I’ll pick a piece from Zara that I love. To mix and match things. I do love nice fabrics. My go to could be a Ric Owens tee shirt with a pair of jeans and heels. I like to be able to bounce around. Very Casual chic.
Q. How old were you when you were diagnosed with Breast cancer?
A. I was in my late twenties. I had just moved to California. I was aspiring to become a comedienne. I was doing stand up here in New York City at New York Comedy Club. Fell in love with it. So I said,”Let’s go to California.” Because my Mom lived in Las Vegas, so California was not a stretch so I packed my bags and moved there. I was staying at the Roosevelt Hotel when I noticed a red bump on my right breast. I called my doctor. I’ve always been hypersensitive with everything. So he was like don’t worry about it. He’s a radiologist so I knew about mammograms and all that. So in two days tell me what’s going on. So two days go by and it’s not itching me. It’s not changing. So he says, I think you should come in and check it out. He doesn’t think it’s anything. So I came in and his office and we ran tests, sonogram, mammogram, the whole nine. I had to push the envelope just to get him to biopsy the lump. And I go to lunch with a friend and he calls me. He’s like you’re not going to believe this. I said, “I have cancer don’t I?” He was like, “Yeah, you have breast cancer.” I was in stage zero. A very early stage. Which saved my life.
Q. What were your thoughts and how much did you know about breast cancer?
A. I just knew cancer. Cancer is not good. Cancer you die. Cancer is for older people. I had to dive in. Right when I was diagnosed you should immediately do chemotherapy. I went from one oncologist to another. And so I had to make decisions quickly. And I gave myself a timeline. I don’t where all this decision making came from but I had to make a decision if I’m going to do chemo or not. I chose to do chemo and it was the best decision for me because it saved my life.
Q. Was there a history of it in your family?
A. No history of breast cancer. No history of cancer. It literally fell into my lap. I have my own theory. My father passed away in 2004 and I was diagnosed in 2005. Although I looked great on the outside but on the inside I was mourning my father and I think my cancer spilled out that way.
Q. Did you know any women with it, dealing with it or had died from it.?
A. No I didn’t. This truly came out of nowhere. I was having the time of my life in California. There is an old saying, that my grandma used to say, “Put your big girl pants on.” So I had to do just that. Because when you hear cancer, they tell you to go with someone to see the doctor. Because when you hear the word cancer, you don’t really hear it. It’s the strangest thing.
Q. You did a reality show “Love In The City” produced by Oprah Winfrey OWN network. What was that like for you now publicly telling everyone about your diagnosis?
A. That’s a great question. When I was diagnosed in 2005 I was very fortunate. There’s a process for anything but now I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I didn’t have any health insurance so I had to go through the process of getting insurance. I had a foundation that came in and helped me. Right when I needed it. What was given to me so freely is what I should give back. This is how PinkChoseMe foundation came about. Because I didn’t see anybody that looked like me. I was immediately introduced to support groups at Mt. Sinai then Cornell, I was meeting women from all over the city going through this diagnosis and I was like, “Where are the other girls who look like me? The young Black and Brown girls?“
Q. What’s the statistic of Black and Brown women with breast cancer?
A. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 statistically 62 percent of Black women die from breast cancer. And breast cancer is not a disease that you have to die from. If you catch it early. Early prevention.
Q. Are Black women getting adequate screenings, access to affordable healthcare and information regarding breast cancer awareness?
A. The resources are out there. The information is out there. Women with health insurance it’s there. I found over the years working with minority women and being on the ground with women and hearing their stories. It’s fear based. Some women have health insurance and they don’t use it. They’re unaware of where to go. You know there are a lot of myths in the Black community with doctors and health. Some would say that we weren’t ever treated fairly with doctors. So we don’t trust. That reminds me of a story I read. There was a woman in Tennessee, she was in her mid 40s, CEO of a company, doing well, very successful. Diagnosed Stage Four breast cancer. The doctor gave her the script of where she needed to go what she needed to do. Before she checked those boxes off. She went to the morgue, to the funeral home because she thought she was gonna die. From there she went to her minister. And I have so many other stories. I’m also partnered with Susan Funk. She is one of the smartest that I’ve met. She’s my surgeon, Angelina Jolie, Sheryl Crow, Christina Applegate she’s all of our surgeon. I asked, “Why are women off color dying from breast cancer?” She says, “Tiffany when they arrive to us they are Stage Four. By that time it’s too late.”
Q. Is it preventable Or inevitable?
A. There is prevention. That’s with diet and exercise. Seeing your doctor, being honest with your doctor. Having your annual, your routine met. All of your screenings. Those treatments and visits should be met. Bringing your stress levels down. So all of those things you can prevent. But if it’s hereditary then it’s more than likely inevitable.
Q. What preparations should all women take when facing this diagnosis?
A. It’s like your life is really going on vacation. This is another part of the recovery and the process that happen with people who are diagnosed with cancer and I can speak of women specifically breast cancer. And getting through the chemo and the radiation and whatever treatments you have to go through you’re on a routine. And you have to see a doctor at this hour on this day. However the recovery of your whole process could take years, could take decades. And getting prepared for something that is unfamiliar. The only thing that you can really do is stay present with yourself. And honest with yourself. I think that is a part of your healing. Even if you’re told you have thirty days. My diagnosis was six months but my response was only God knows my expire date.
Q. You’ve had breast cancer more than once? Is that common?
A. A reoccurrence I wouldn’t say is not uncommon. Every situation is different. Once being diagnosed with breast cancer you read about the reoccurrence and you hope that it doesn’t happen to you. However cancer is very smart and tricky and it wants to live. So there is a voice in the back of your head with any cancer survivor is it going to come back. When is it going to come back. So I think that is something that we all have in the back of our mind. And that’s why it’s important to try to stay balanced through all of this. It’s not only hard on your body it’s hard mentally.
Q. How has surviving beast cancer changed your life?
A. Oh wow. What I can take away is that I was so afraid when I was diagnosed. And that fear made me so afraid that I ran towards my fear and I faced it. And running towards your fear and being faced with your own mortality I look at it now as a gift. And I say that to say because my perspective in some way has enlightened me of what’s really important. My God, my higher power, my universe whatever it is checkmated me very early. I needed to get it very young. Life is so very precious. I didn’t welcome cancer but cancer chose me.
Q. Tell us about Pink Chose Me Foundation Inc. and it’s mission?
A. So Pink Chose Me Foundation, our mission is spread breast cancer awareness, and prevention. We are bringing in a health and wellness program that leads into our pilate retreats, hiking, keeping the body in motion, focused. One program we’ve always had is Patient Navigation. It’s very important as we partner breast cancer survivors with other survivors to walk them through the process. I’ve met women whose husbands don’t know their doing chemo, don’t know that they had cancer. Every story is more and more interesting. Most times you want someone there. So we partner different patients that have gone through the same thing or is going through.
Q. When I met you were already a breast cancer and then was diagnosed again and survived yet again. Thought it all you are always cheerful and bubbly. What do you attribute that too?
A. First and foremost I don’t take myself so seriously. Being diagnosed with breast cancer so early, so young in my life. My perception of what’s important changed. And it wasn’t anything I asked for it was something I was given. I think we have choices In our lives that can bring us joy. I always hear that fear plays a huge part in our lives. And running towards the fear in some ways bring you joy. Because you’re conquering that energy that holds you back from the universe, The God has and the life that is really there for you. I don’t live a perfect life. Things are not rainbows and sprinkles everyday. But I do know that each day is going to end and another day is going to start. And with that you can find some joy. I do believe with so much pain and looking at the world right now people are doing the best that they can. Where there’s tragedy there’s opportunity. So you don’t have to put your head in the sand you can power through. You’re not the only one going through turmoil or pain. Overcoming that can spark just a small piece of joy that you can ignite throughout your life.
Q. Are there any goals you still want to achieve?
A. Yes, I would love to open breast cancer recovery retreats around the globe. Where women can go recover from surgery from chemo. A time out from the family, from the kids and be around other women and share their stories of their new found friend cancer.
TIFFANY DENEE’ JONES: PINK CHOSE ME @ambassador_mag Cover & Editorial Photographer: Courtney Douglas Founder & Editor In Chief: Musa Jackson Creative director Paul Morejon
StudioMake up artist: NereydaCover:
White Shirt by Tiffany Denee’ Jones Leather pants @therowBoots @gianvitorossi
Editorial: Black embellished dress @albertafretti
Maxi dress @moschino Shoes @StellaMcCarthy
White linen shirt dress @lisamaria #blackexcellence#harlem#breastcancer#pinkchoseme#ambassadordigitalmag
LIVE YOUR LIFE WITH PASSION! LIVE YOUR LIFE WITH PURPOSE! YouTube: Ambassador Digital Magazine Facebook: Ambassador Digital Magazine.
FOLLOW US ON IG @ambassador_mag
Inquire about brand partnerships & sponsorship opportunities. Please make a donation via cash app : $harlemambassador