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Northeast Ohio breast cancer survivor pays it forward after diagnosis

For Dorrian Horsey, breast cancer pushed her into a sisterhood. Although it is one she didn’t choose, it is one that she says she would never change.

CLEVELAND — As of January 2022, there are more than 3.8 million women with a history of breast cancer in the U.S. It is far too common, but there is support in Northeast Ohio through The Gathering Place. 

For Dorrian Horsey, breast cancer pushed her into a sisterhood. Although it is one she didn’t choose, it is one that she says she would never change. Her journey started in the fall of 2020 during the height of the pandemic. 

“I felt a lump and I had that moment of 'do I want to go into the doctor's office at this time? Or do I want to wait and see?'” said Horsey. 

She decided to see her doctor immediately and a battery of tests later confirmed it. Her doctor delivered the news: Horsey had cancer. 

“I didn't expect her to say that. My mind had already moved onto what am I having for lunch? What do I have to do for work? She was talking, I could see her lips moving, but I don't remember a lot other than her saying…you are going to get through this,” said Horsey. 

Horsey knew that she had to survive and stay strong for herself and for her three children. Thus, her treatment started in order to kick her cancer. 

“Once you are done with the active treatment and they kind of release you out into the world…you are left with what happened to me? And organizations like The Gathering Place are there to pick up the pieces," she added.

Horsey started going to support groups while she was going through chemotherapy.

“If you imagine the tug of war like the rope, there were people there who had already been through [cancer] who were kind of pulling me forward and I needed that, I needed to see someone who was on the other side of it,” said Horsey. “The Gathering Place is such a wonderful resource when you are in your cancer journey. They will always be a very special part of this journey for me. They met me…at every stage of this process even now…on the other side of active treatment…they continue to meet me where I am.”

The Gathering Place offers support groups for all types of cancer – for Horsey, she's part of several groups – including the group for African American breast cancer warriors. African American women have a 31% breast cancer mortality rate – the highest of any U.S. racial or ethnic group. 

“I think all of us hear these stories and think, 'awe that's a shame that happened to her.' And I want all African American women to know that that could be me. So, let me take advantage of the opportunity to know my own body to talk to my doctor.” 

Horsey wants other women to be their best advocate. Today, she is on the other side of the journey in active recovery. However, she knows there are other women behind her who need to see her strength.

“Unfortunately with cancer, there is always somebody behind you…so now I have the rope. It's my job to let women know [that] it's okay to feel how you feel but I want you to know to keep going," she adds.

The Gathering Place is hosting its annual "Race for the Place" to continue to fund the free programs for cancer survivors and their families. The event is Sunday, June 5, on National Cancer Survivors Day, and there is a 5K and 1-mile walk for all to enjoy.

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