In February 2001, the Reverend Dr. Ruth Travis received news that would change her life.
“I will never forget that day,” said Dr. Travis, who will turn 77 in November. “My biopsy results came back, and the doctor called me and said I had abnormal cells.”
Travis had a digital mammography, which allows a radiologist to capture and manipulate images so abnormalities can be seen more easily. She said that was the key to early detection and treatment.
“I was diagnosed at stage zero,” said Travis. “I didn’t have a lump because the cancer was in my milk duct. The cancer was the size of a coffee granule. I asked God ‘how long do I have to live?’ I was thinking that way because there is no cure for breast cancer. But then, instead of thinking of the word ‘cancer,’ I started thinking about other words that began with the letter ‘c.’ I said, ‘Christ, cake, car…anything that kept me from going to the ‘d’ word for death.”
She added, “I heard God say, ‘This is not sickness until death.’ That was the beginning of my journey.”
Nearly 23 years later, Travis’ journey continues as her crusade to knock-out “The Big C” (Cancer) hasn’t stopped. Her many efforts include educating both men and women about the importance of early detection through self-breast examinations and mammograms. Her busy schedule also includes taking to the streets to hand out information about breast cancer to increase awareness. Recently, she and a group of supporters handed out free bags containing breast cancer and other information at the corner of Liberty Road and Brenbrook Drive in Randallstown.
“I’ve got to do everything I can,” said Travis. “Black women are dying of breast cancer more than any other group.”
According to the American Cancer Society, statistics for breast cancer in the United States for 2022 are an estimated 287,850 new cases of invasive breast cancer that will be diagnosed in women. The American Cancer Society further notes that the median age of diagnosis is slightly younger for Black women (60 years old), compared to white women (63 years old), and that Black women have the highest death rate from breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, this is thought to be partially because about one in five Black women with breast cancer have triple-negative breast cancer more than any other racial/ethnic group. At every age, Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer than any other race or ethnic group. Travis’ outreach efforts also include monetarily assisting men and women who have breast cancer and raising funds to open “Ruth’s Pink House.”
“Women are diagnosed with breast cancer, go through surgery, check-ups and other procedures as part of their treatment,” said Travis. “But what do you do with that time in-between? I want them to come to a Pink House, which will be a beautiful pink home where women with breast cancer can come for a night or weekend of restoration and relaxation.”
Travis is the former senior pastor of Ebenezer African American Methodist (A.M.E.) in South Baltimore, retiring from the position in 2017. However, she has not retired from the ministry, still preaching at services, conferences, and other speaking engagements. The former physical education teacher is a native of Augusta, Georgia, and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
Danielle Whidby is among the many people Travis has helped. Diagnosed in 2016 with Stage 3 breast cancer, Whidby’s journey began when she found a lump in her breast.
“I met Dr. Travis at an event, and she has such amazing energy. She purchased a book from me,” said the 42-year-old Whidby referencing a book she and her daughter wrote called “Mommy Lost Her Boob.”
“Dr. Travis asked if there was anything I needed, and I told her ‘yes.’ She added, “While I was dealing with cancer, the fallout from my bills were still there. I was trying to figure out how I was going to make that happen, but Dr. Travis helped, and it took a lot of pressure off me.”
Whidby shared this advice for those who have been newly diagnosed with breast cancer.
“A sisterhood which includes people like Dr. Travis is very important,” she said. “My sisterhood includes going to events and meeting other people who know what it’s like to have cancer and sharing our stories. I also share my personal story online. I encourage others to trust in their higher power, lean on their sisterhood, and to not be afraid to ask family and friends for help when you are in need.”
To donate or for more information about Ruth’s Pink House, visit https://drruthtravis.com/pink-house. You can also learn more about Travis at www.drruthtravis.com.