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Jill Biden visits Hollings Cancer Center and greets airmen at Joint Base Charleston

Jill Biden's tour of the Medical University of South Carolina included discussing efforts to provide breast cancer screenings, education and care to women in rural and medically underserved communities, particularly Black women. 

“Four of my close friends were diagnosed with breast cancer," Biden said during her two-hour stop at the Hollings Cancer Center on Oct 25.

"One of them did not survive," she continued. "I vowed then that I would do something, especially as an educator. Our administration is committed to spreading awareness so women can find out early if they have breast cancer."

One of the patients Biden spoke with, Latoya Wilson, is currently enduring stage four breast cancer while also raising her four children. Over the past nine years, Wilson said she's been getting treatments ranging from chemotherapy and radiation to participating in clinical trials at MUSC. 

"The clinical trial I was part of led to a new drug being approved by the Food and Drug Administration," she said. "We need more minorities as part of these trials so we can get the future benefits and have more time with our friends and our families."

Accompanying Biden was Dr. Ned Sharpless, director of the National Cancer Institute.

Biden's visit was her second stop in South Carolina in a week and continued a special Biden family interest in the state where husband Joe Biden won the Democratic presidential primary here in February 2020, cementing his eventual claim to the party nomination on the road to the White House.

MUSC wasn't her only stop. She also visited Joint Base Charleston to meet with service members.

While breast cancer remains the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among U.S. women, Black women are far more likely to die from the disease. The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show from 2010-2014, approximately 41,000 deaths from breast cancer occurred each year and the mortality rate among Black women was 41 percent higher than White women. 

The Bidens have faced their own personal battles with cancer, as their son Beau died at the age of 46 due to complications from brain cancer in 2015. 

The first lady's visit to Joint Base Charleston after MUSC came nearly two years to the day that then-first lady Melania Trump and second lady Karen Pence met with military leaders and spoke to families of Charleston service members. It also comes shortly after America’s 20-year presence in Afghanistan ended with Charleston-based C-17 commanders organizing and then flying out the last soldiers from Hamid Karzai International Airport.

When she arrived at Joint Base Charleston's recreation complex, Biden's brief remarks where focused on the role that service members and their families played in helping 124,000 refugees escape Afghanistan. 

"Our Afghan allies have been become friends, partners and even family," Biden said. "And when you saw that they needed help, you once again answered a call to serve."

Between 150 and 200 people were in the audience to hear her remarks.

"Service members, veterans and military families across the country have joined the efforts to welcome our Afghan allies to the United States, donating food and clothing, and helping them begin their new lives as our neighbors," she added. 

This is the first lady's second visit to The Palmetto State in recent days. She visited last weekend, spending Oct. 17 in a West Columbia Baptist church where she spoke of beginning to repair her relationship with God following her son’s death from brain cancer six years ago.

When asked by The Post and Courier Oct. 25 how it felt to be back in South Carolina, the first lady responded enthusiastically. 

"Are you kidding me?" she said. "South Carolina has a piece of my heart."

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 Follow Zharia Jeffries on Twitter @Zharia_Jeffries.

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