Diane Walker: Fighting breast cancer, one screening at a time

October 9, 2018 | by Maxine Nunes

Officer Diane Walker | City of Hope Diane Walker (right) with California State Senator Steven Bradford at the Long Beach Jazz Festival Health and Wellness Pavilion
Breast cancer survivor Diane Walker is a woman with a mission. She wants you to get a mammogram. If she’s passionate about it, that’s because early detection saved her life and the lives of two of her sisters.
Walker works with City of Hope and groups like Worship in Pink and First Ladies Annual Health Day. She is deeply involved in outreach, particularly in the African-American community, where the death rate from breast cancer is 40 percent higher than among white women.
 
Women of color are often diagnosed with breast cancer at a later stage,” Walker said, “so if you can get just one person to really listen to you, it’s a lot.”
The reasons for this disparity range from inequalities in accessing health care to the types of breast cancer more prevalent among African-American women. And Walker still meets people who are wary of testing because of historical medical abuses like the Tuskegee experiment and coerced sterilization.
As an ambassador for early detection, you’ll often find Walker out in the community — at the Pasadena Black History Parade, at neighborhood church events and most recently with the City of Hope team at the Long Beach Jazz Festival Health and Wellness Pavilion — giving out pamphlets and encouraging people to get screened.
She has a natural charm and enthusiasm that makes you enjoy being persuaded. And her conversation is often accompanied by the generous, joyful laugh of a woman who has made it through some tough challenges.
The most difficult of those, though, wasn’t her own bout with cancer.
“My son Justin got neuroblastoma, a rare cancer of the adrenal gland,” she explained. “He passed away when he was 7.”
But her life, she says, has also been blessed. She has five other children, all adults now. The three youngest, triplets born after she lost her son, recently graduated from Columbia, Harvard and American University respectively.
In 2012, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. “At first I just fell apart,” she said. “But I told myself, you’ve got to fight and be strong and keep your sense of humor.”
Then came another blow. She survived cancer — but her marriage of 25 years did not. It collapsed under the stress of dealing with the disease.
What did help her through those difficult times? Her family, her church, City of Hope and what she calls their “never-ending tide of support.”
Walker was treated at the City of Hope community practice site in South Pasadena. Since she is a librarian at the nearby Hastings Branch, she was able to complete treatment without ever missing a day of work.
“The location was so convenient,” she said. “I went there on my lunch break, got my radiation, returned to the library and took a 20-minute nap in the break room. Then I went back to work.”
If you happen to drop by her branch of the library, don't leave without a breast cancer awareness brochure. There's always a supply at her desk.
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Learn more about breast cancer treatments. If you are looking for a second opinion about your diagnosis or consultation about your treatment, request an appointment online or contact us at 800-826-4673. Please visit Making Your First Appointment for more information.
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