Diagnosed Before 40: TGIN Founder & Breast Cancer Survivor Shares Her Story
When Chris-Tia Donaldson released her first book, Thank God I’m Natural: The Ultimate Guide to Caring for and Maintaining Natural Hair, in the summer of 2009, it was quickly heralded at the “The Natural Hair Bible.” The book dispelled some of the most common myths and misconceptions about kinky hair and gave women a much-needed resource for how to embrace their coils. Following the success of the book, Chris-Tia, a Harvard law school graduate who never had plans of being an entrepreneur, transitioned her talents to the launch of a natural hair care line, Thank God I’m Natural (TGIN).
By 2015, the products she started out making in her kitchen with the help of family back in 2013 became a viable company with revenue topping $1 million.
The now successful CEO, entrepreneur, author and public speaker has another title that she proudly claims: breast cancer survivor.
The CEO used social media to chronicle her journey and continues to speak to women about the importance of early detection – even for women younger than 40.
Chris-Tia shared her story with BlackDoctor.org via a Facebook Live interview. Below are highlights from the Q&A. Watch the full interview on the following page.
BlackDoctor.org: I remember running into you often at LA Fitness years ago and I know your health is something that you take very seriously. Was the possibility of breast cancer something that was on your radar?
Chris-Tia Donaldson: Absolutely not. There is no history of breast cancer in my family. I was also just 36 at the time of my diagnosis. When I thought of breast cancer, I thought of people like Sheryl Crow, Melissa Ethridge, Joan Lunden, Suzanne Sommers and Christina Applegate. I never gave much consideration that this was something that could happen to me.
BDO: How did your diagnosis come about? Did you discover something abnormal during a self exam?
CD: I was actually taking a shower and noticed it then. Initially, I thought it was hormonal related, because I had a cyst removed from my breast in my 20s. Given my age and the fact that I felt perfectly healthy, breast cancer was the furthest thing from my mind. After two to three months passed, I made an appointment to see my doctor. Although she did not think it was cancer given the lump’s size, shape and the fact that it was soft and movable, she still recommended a mammogram just to be safe.
BDO: Your diagnosis came at the time of some very important business deals for TGIN and you pushed forward as planned. How did you know that was the right course of action for you, rather than stepping away to focus strictly on treatment?
CD: When I first was diagnosed, my doctor asked me when could I start chemotherapy. I told them I had a meeting with Target on 3/22 that I had to look good for. Based on that, we scheduled my treatments in such a way, that I would be off and looking and feeling good for that meeting. But, I soon learned that, you can’t plan for everything, because we ended up getting calls to do meetings with Walgreen’s and Rite Aid and I just had to wing it even though I was at my weakest.