Wilhelmina Grant, Phenomenal Woman
Kiss FM Radio Interview • October 10, 2005
MAYA ANGELOU: Phenomenal Woman. I don't shout, or jump about, or have to talk real loud. When you see me passing, it ought to make you proud. Because I'm a Woman, phenomenally. Phenomenal Woman.
SHAILA: That's Wilhelmina E. Grant, guys.
JEFF FOX: Ok. (applause)
SHAILA: Give it up.
JEFF FOX: Alright.
JEFF FOX: Good morning.
SHAILA: Our phenomenal woman is a two time survivor of breast cancer; a dynamic, energetic native New Yorker, and resident of Harlem. Currently, she is the executive assistant to the soon to be built Jazz Museum in Harlem, a cultural, historical and educational institution in Harlem devoted to jazz, America's art form. She was formerly the director of community outreach for SHARE, Self-Help for Women with Breast Cancer, a New York City based not-for-profit, where she created, organized and facilitated educational programs for the purpose of increasing public awareness of the risks of breast cancer.
SHAILA (Cont.): She has appeared on the cover of Mamm, a national women's cancer magazine, and over the years, has provided approximately twenty-five television and radio interviews. She was featured in two breast cancer documentaries, What I Wish I Knew, and Between Us: A First Aid Kit for Your Heart & Soul. In June of 1997, Wilhelmina participated as a panelist in the first breast cancer survivor forum, held in the White House, with Vice President Al Gore and Mrs. Tipper Gore. Wilhelmina stressed the importance of early detection, the positive impact of visibility of survivors in their communities, and the significance of women being proactive in their own healthcare.
Wilhelmina, you are an inspiring force to men and women alike, to live life with grace and humor, through torment and pain, kickin' cancer to the curb, to be blessed with success. Our phenomenal woman, (applause) Wilhelmina E. Grant!
JEFF FOX: Alright now.
SHAILA: Good morning. You're looking pretty in pink. How are you this morning?
WILHELMINA GRANT: Very well, thank you.
SHAILA: And you are looking well. Tell us about your struggle with breast cancer.
GRANT: Well, when I was first diagnosed, I sought out help. I joined a support group and talked to other women who had been through it before me. And...
SHAILA: Right. But even before that, how- were you one of the kind of people that would go to the doctor on a regular basis?
GRANT: Well, I was living a well woman type of existence; I did my well woman examinations on time. But I was told that I couldn't have a mammogram until I was forty. So I had not been to have my baseline mammogram. At that time…
GRANT: …it was suggested at forty.
SHAILA: But this was before you're forty.
GRANT: And they said, "Well, it won't show anything, so when you're forty, come in for a baseline."
JEFF FOX: And they were wrong by that.
GRANT: Exactly. Well, in my situation, I had, as you know from the literature I sent you, I had a blow to the breast, which brought something to the surface that was behind the breast. So if I had had a mammogram, it wouldn't have shown up anyway. So I was just extremely lucky that I got hit when I did, where I did, and brought that to my attention; and I got screened and found out what it was.
SHAILA: Wow. So after you were told, what happened the second time? Because you had gone into remission the first time, and then it resurfaced?
GRANT: Well, let me back up just a second. Initially, I was misdiagnosed, because they said it was just a complex cyst. So I had to go to a different doctor and explain that something was going on, I was feeling pain. And they said, "Well, if it's pain, it's not cancer," which was incorrect.
JEFF FOX: Hm.
GRANT: So through my persistence, I was able to get diagnosed properly.
SHAILA: Gosh. So… Wow, this is quite complicated, because then you- you- you- you send out a signal that people should go and get their mammograms done, but then it may not show up in the mammogram. Then what? Do they continue- do- should everyone go and get tested twice?
GRANT: Well, I would say in my instance, I was having some pain. And they said, "Well, if it's pain, it's not cancer."
GRANT: So I said, "Well, prove to me what it is."
GRANT: So I went to get a second opinion, and they went a little further. They did a sonogram and a mammogram; and something was not looking right, so they did a biopsy, a needle biopsy, at that time. So all- all I can suggest is if you're gonna tell me there's something- there's nothing wrong, prove it.
GRANT: That's all.
SHAILA: Then the...
GRANT: And get a second opinion.
SHAILA: Well, maybe you can tell us the name of the doctor that did get it right, so that maybe, you know, folks would… Can you remember?
GRANT: I went to Miriam Levy. This was a woman-center- mammography place on Third Avenue.
GRANT: And she did a very thorough examination and did a needle biopsy. Which, ordinarily, you would go to the hospital and they would do...
SHAILA: All that.
GRANT: ...that procedure, but she was very proactive, and she saw something, and she went ahead and found it.
SHAILA: So now you're in remission.
GRANT: I'd like to say cancer free.
JEFF FOX: Yeah.
JEFF FOX: Alright.
JEFF FOX: Yeah.
SHAILA: That is a blessing!
JEFF FOX: Give her a round of applause.
SHAILA: Yes. (applause) And tell us about this jazz museum now.
GRANT: Oh, I would love to. After beating cancer two times, I've been really participating in life affirming types of activities. I went back to school, I got braces on my teeth, and as you can see, I got them off.
JEFF FOX: Looking good, looking good.
GRANT: And the third thing that I've done is I've joined this really exciting project to help launch a jazz museum in the center of Harlem.
JEFF FOX: Big jazz lover, huh?
SHAILA: Wow. Where's it gonna be located?
GRANT: It should be at the site of the old Victoria Theater...
JEFF FOX: Oh, ok.
GRANT: …two doors down from the Apollo.
JEFF FOX: That's true, yeah.
JEFF FOX: And they were having problems with that theater a few...
JEFF FOX: Yeah.
JEFF FOX: They were trying to close it down, or the owner- it was a big thing. How's that goin'?
GRANT: Well, we're just waiting to hear the news from the state, as to who will be selected to develop the site. And we are…
JEFF FOX: So this is a landmark.
GRANT: I'm not sure about the status of it, but...
JEFF FOX: Well, they're trying to make it a landmark.
GRANT: …we are hoping to be the cultural component...
JEFF FOX: Right.
JEFF FOX: And keep it alive.
GRANT: ...the project for whoever develops...
JEFF FOX: Yeah.
GRANT: …the property.
JEFF FOX: Ok, ok.
SHAILA: Well, good luck, and- and much success on that. (applause) And please come back and let us know when you've- you know, when everything is finalized over there.
GRANT: Well, it's- in the meantime, we've been doing a series called Harlem Speaks every other Thursday...
SHAILA: And where's that?
GRANT: ...where we honor... We have that in our office.
GRANT: And we do have a website, www.jazzmuseuminharlem.org.
GRANT: And every other week for the past year-and-a-half, we've been hosting the Harlem Speaks series to honor different jazz heroes from Harlem. And it's been a wildly successful event, and it's free...
GRANT: ...open to the public...
SHAILA: As it should be.
GRANT: ...and free. So just give us a call, and we'll put you on the reservations list, and we'll see you every other Thursday.
SHAILA: Telephone number?
SHAILA: And the website once again?
SHAILA: Alright. Our phenomenal woman, Wilhelmina E. Grant. Thank you very much.
GRANT: Thank you.