Renée Davis - A Renaissance Woman Beyond Breast Cancer
- Created on May 25th, 2009
- By Malissa Magyar
Renée Davis of Atlanta is a Renaissance Woman – wife, mother, daughter, entrepreneur, model, beauty consultant, motivational speaker, tireless advocate for the homeless. . . and cancer survivor. Mentioning cancer last puts it in its proper place. “Don’t become the poster child for cancer; don’t let cancer define you,” says Renée. She wants women to understand the disease, treatment options, products, and resources to help them get past their illness. “No more pity parties. Get up and do something for yourself and for others,” she declares.
A cancer survivor since 1999, Renée was exposed to the devastation of cancer at age 16 when her mother underwent a double mastectomy at 36. Renée’s father used to ask his four daughters routinely if they checked their breasts. “He just didn’t want to see any of us go through what our mother did.”
“I knew every one of my lumps…”
As an African American woman, Renée saw the challenges her mother faced culturally, socially, and medically, getting care in the 1960s. She was well aware of the statistics about women of color and cancer; while incidence of cancer in African Americans is lower than Caucasians, their death rates are higher. This inspired Renée to become her own health advocate. During a routine doctor’s visit, Renée brought an unusual lump to the attention of her physician. Even though he dismissed it and the mammogram failed to detect it, Renée felt something wasn’t quite right. “I knew every one of my lumps; what was normal and what was not,” she recalls. A second physician confirmed her fear, that the barely detectable lump was cancerous. Renee underwent a biopsy that excised the lump and some surrounding tissue that ended up being the lumpectomy. She then underwent radiation therapy to complete her treatment.
From Panty Hose to High Fashion Breast Forms
Refusing to let cancer slow her down, Renée began modeling at age 40. On one of her modeling jobs she was introduced to Amoena, the worldwide leader of post breast surgery products. The company’s management and staff fell in love with her positive attitude and exceptional looks and soon had her modeling for them. When modeling bathing suits and tight clothing in particular, the Amoena breast forms give her a full, natural figure, but most importantly, confidence in her appearance. “My mother had to use panty hose to fill out her figure because the forms back then were so heavy and uncomfortable,” says Renée. “Today we have so many more choices. . . it’s definitely not your grandmother’s breast forms. They are contemporary and chic and there is something for everyone.”
Cancer-free for nearly 10 years, Renée credits her faith, family, friends, and healthy lifestyle for her positive determination. She has worked as a community health advocate with the Avon Comprehensive Breast Cancer Center. She also helps educate Atlanta’s underserved minority communities about breast cancer, giving them information about early detection and screening. Renée has also worked with the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer campaign to help raise funds to fight cancer. She believes that through education and awareness, women can navigate the labyrinth of breast cancer issues, including health care coverage.
Renée’s final recommendations to all women: Always know your body, perform self breast exams monthly – and have annual exams. She especially wants to remind women over 40 not to rely solely on annual mammograms, as her cancer was found after a “normal” mammogram. “I have daughters and I’ve taught them the importance of doing their own exams. The younger you learn – even as teenagers – the more attuned you will be to your body. I believe knowing my body is what helped me catch my cancer so early. Remember that the key to prevention is early detection!”