A Cancer Survivor on a Mission to Raise Awareness

Tiffany Williams devoted her career as a pediatric nurse practitioner to addressing health disparities among children and teens. But then, just a year after earning her doctorate, she received a diagnosis of multiple myeloma.

Tiffany Williams devoted her career as a pediatric nurse practitioner to addressing health disparities among children and teens. But then, just a year after earning her doctorate, she received a diagnosis of multiple myeloma. 

“I was at the peak of my career and had just started to take on more leadership activities at the university, and then I get this diagnosis. It knocked me completely over,” she said.

Ultimately, because of her immunocompromised status, fatigue and other complications from her cancer and treatment, Tiffany retired. But she found a new mission: advocating for patients with cancer and elevating awareness of racial and ethnic disparities in cancer.

“Throughout my entire nursing career, I have always taken care of people in marginalized populations, people with chronic health care needs, people with major health disparities,” she said. “But when I was diagnosed, I became even more aware of the health disparities that impact people of color with cancer. And I feel like my career set me up for the place I found myself in, as a patient with multiple myeloma, and seeing the statistics, knowing the outcomes, hearing the stories. … I just felt like I had an obligation to give a voice to that.”

Upon learning there were no local groups for patients with multiple myeloma, she cofounded the Charleston Area Multiple Myeloma Network Group, an educational and empowerment group for patients. She then went on to found and continues to facilitate the Orangeburg Myeloma Network Group in Orangeburg, South Carolina, approximately 80 miles from Charleston.

“Most people don’t know the symptoms and signs of multiple myeloma, but that’s not the way it has to stay. I want to do for multiple myeloma what the Susan G. Komen Foundation did for breast cancer,” she said.

She’s spoken at conferences as varied as the Black Health Matters Kappa Health Summit and the American Association for Cancer Research’s Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved. She’s published in peer-reviewed journals, including an article in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing about the unique manifestations of multiple myeloma in Black patients, and she’s participated in an FDA-AACR workshop that resulted in recommendations to reduce disparities in clinical trial participation.

She’s also written for the lay public, outlining her experiences in Insider and Authority Magazine and penning an opinion piece on the Cancer Drug Parity Act in the local Charleston newspaper, the Postand Courier. She’s scheduled to speak at conferences for the International Myeloma Society, International Myeloma Foundation and HealtheVoices, and has been invited to attend the IMF African-American Initiative council meeting.

Tiffany believes that her work is making a difference. She takes it as a sign of interest and good intentions on the part of these groups that invitations to speak keep coming in.

“I am always that voice to remind the group about the people who aren’t around the table, who will never be invited to the table, and I know that is making an impact,” she said.

For more news on cancer updates, research and education, don’t forget to subscribe to CURE®’s newsletters here.