Howard University Hospital officials have designated a haven for cancer patients in honor of Zora K. Brown, a three-time survivor of the disease who worked tirelessly to increase awareness among African American women about the benefits of self-examination and regular mammograms to protect themselves from breast cancer.
Brown, a long-time District resident, died on March 3 in Oklahoma from ovarian cancer. To honor her legacy, loved ones created “Zora’s Lounge for Patients and Families” at the Howard University Cancer Center. The lounge will be maintained by the Friends of Zora Brown Committee and will be decorated with flowers and art reflecting Brown's elegant style. A dedication ceremony was scheduled for May 17.
“Zora Brown was familiar with many cancer lounges through her 30-plus year battles with breast cancer and ovarian cancer and understood the value of a comforting place to spend time healing and moving forward in the treatment process,” said Melanie Nix, Brown’s niece.
Brown was first diagnosed at 32 with breast cancer, which also had afflicted her great-grandmother, grandmother, mother and three sisters. She founded Cancer Awareness Program Services and the Breast Cancer Resource Committee, a non-profit dedicated to supporting Black women with breast cancer and advocating for more research to quell the mortality rates among Black women.
“African American women bear an unequal burden in the war against breast cancer,” Brown wrote in 2008 in “The Breast Journal: Living in a High-Risk Family.”
“While breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among all women, it is the leading cause of cancer death among African American women. Although awareness and early precautions do not necessarily prevent breast cancer, they remain central to breast cancer survivorship. My own family history, as well as the 1.3 million breast cancer survivors in my country, documents this reality."
Brown served as a consultant to the U. S. Conference of Mayors and was appointed by President George H. W. Bush to the National Cancer Advisory Board and the National Cancer Institute.
“Zora relentlessly pursued her mission to achieve a 50 percent drop in African-American breast cancer deaths by the end of the 20th century,” D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray said in a statement. “Her efforts received recognition from U.S. presidents and members of Congress.”
Brown appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and co-authored “100 Questions & Answers About Breast Cancer,” which she dedicated to her sisters, Belva Brown Brissett and Margaret Brown Brady.
“Though they both lost the battle against breast cancer, they instructed me, by the examples of their own lives, not how to die but how to live,” Brown wrote.