'The View' helps pay it forward to 3 breast cancer survivors helping the community

Angela Taylor, Venita Graves, and Dawn Compton share their journeys.

October 27, 2022, 4:35 PM

For Angela Taylor, Venita Graves, and Dawn Compton, their fight against breast cancer didn't stop when they won their battles.

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month on "The View" Thursday, the three survivors opened up about their personal journeys and how they're continuing to help other breast cancer warriors, and received an unexpected surprise to continue their work with the community.

Taylor, who was 50 years old at the time of her diagnosis, was doing a breast self-exam when she discovered something concerning. Her doctor conducted a biopsy and would later call Taylor with the dreadful news that she had breast cancer.

"I was numb," Taylor said of receiving her diagnosis. After more than five months of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy, she was cancer-free.

Still, Taylor knew that not everyone had the same access to the crucial health care that supported her. A woman behind the counter at her local dry cleaner proved the point about health care access when she shared that a mammogram was unaffordable to her without health insurance.

Inspired to do more, Taylor created ARTfull Angels in 2020 to give uninsured women in her community of south Florida access to 3D mammograms free of charge through donations and fund-raising. So far, the organization has helped 28 women get mammograms, including three who discovered they had breast cancer.

"We want women to feel empowered," Taylor said. "Breast cancer has truly changed my life. It has made me a better woman."

"I just do my best to help someone that is in need, that's my heart's desire," she continued. "I'll never stop."

Like so many women, Compton was a busy wife, mother and grandmother who was late in scheduling her annual mammogram. One day, she noticed a spot on her breast that had a burning pain. Two days after her biopsy, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Throughout 2018, Compton underwent chemotherapy, radiation and a double mastectomy. In preparation for her double mastectomy, a special chest pillow that protects her incision and a shirt that holds the drains she would have for several weeks was recommended to her.

Compton took matters into her own hands and hand-sewed her own pillow, in addition to a few extras she gave to women also undergoing mastectomies. She sent a pillow to a woman fighting breast cancer who wrote on a Facebook group, "Thank you for my box of blessings."

One request quickly grew to hundreds in a matter of weeks, so Compton launched The Blessing Box Project. Twice a month, community members from her town of Bellville, Texas, gather for a sew-in to create personalized boxes that include a mastectomy pillow, a drain shirt and care items. Since the boxes are sent free of charge, donations are relied on to keep spreading her message of kindness.

"I hear from women every day that receive boxes," Compton said. "They cry because they open that box and they see and they feel the comfort; they feel hope."

"Life changes when you get the word you have cancer, and nothing's the same, but there's a lot of good in them. You just have to look for it," Compton added. "I cannot cure cancer, but by golly, I can cure the fear of cancer with my box."

The Blessing Box Project has fulfilled more than 10,000 requests around the world.

As a hairstylist who spent her life making women feel beautiful and strong, a breast cancer diagnosis in 2003 tested Graves' strength and made her reimagine beauty.

She opened up about a moment she'll "never forget": the day she had to shave her head. "I spent years protecting clients and making sure that their hair stayed healthy, but I couldn't do anything about the hair falling off my head."

After Graves completed her chemotherapy and was declared cancer-free, she recognized the need for breast cancer patients in her community to have access to better styled wigs. In 2010, she founded the nonprofit Beauty Beyond Breast Cancer.

Using her own salon in Houston, Graves created a serene and joyful environment for patients to have their heads shaved and fitted with a brand-new cut and a styled wig free of charge. "When our patients come in and they sit in the chair and they have to have the head shaved, that is very emotional," she said. "When we start trying on wigs, that's where the fun begins."

"They leave with a whole different attitude," she continued. "They are encouraged, inspired."

Graves has depended on fundraisers and wig donations to help hundreds of women. "I love making women feel good and look good, and it all starts with your hair," she said. "I'll do it until the end of time."

PHOTO: "The View" celebrates breast cancer survivors Angela Taylor (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), Venita Graves (Houston, Texas) and Dawn Compton (Belleville, Texas).
"The View" celebrates breast cancer survivors Angela Taylor (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), Venita Graves (Houston, Texas) and Dawn Compton (Belleville, Texas).
Lou Rocco/ABC

Taylor and Graves joined "The View" from the studio audience and Compton joined via satellite from Texas and shared their wise advice to women during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Taylor said that her message is, "hope with inspiration" and "not allowing fear to determine holding you back from getting that mammogram."

"Self-breast exam is essential. It’s how I found my lump," she continued, adding that it's important to remember that "you do not fight this alone."

Hairstylist Graves agreed with Taylor's emphasis on self-examinations and annual mammograms. She went on to say that "if you should lose your hair, your lashes, your eyelashes, your eyebrows, there is beauty beyond this cancer."

Compton reminded viewers that "life feels and is completely different" after being diagnosed with breast cancer, "but you're strong enough."

"You're strong enough for today, to get through today. You have to trust the process," she continued. "Just step forward, keep stepping forward. Your fear is worse than anything that's coming at ya."

"Realize there's pain, there's yuck, there's hard, but you can do this," she added. "You are strong enough, and you are not alone."

PHOTO: "The View" celebrates breast cancer survivors Angela Taylor (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), Venita Graves (Houston, Texas) and Dawn Compton (Belleville, Texas).
"The View" celebrates breast cancer survivors Angela Taylor (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), Venita Graves (Houston, Texas) and Dawn Compton (Belleville, Texas).
Lou Rocco/ABC

To help all three survivors continue their work within the breast cancer community, "The View" sponsor Netspend donated $20,000 to each of them.

"You're not alone, that's the message," co-host Whoopi Goldberg said after the surprise donation. "Thank y’all for the work that each of you are doing, because it's important, it's impactful, and it's magnificent. It is the best of human behavior."

"The View”’s original podcast series "Behind the Table" is available for free on major listening platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, TuneIn, Audacy and the ABC News app.

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