Latania Dodd and Debra Adams

Latania Dodd, left, and Debra Adams stand by a paainted mural displayed at the Greenwood Community Center during an event held at the Community Center last month.

For Greenwood resident Latania Dodd, 2020 has been a year of heartbreak and struggles. Still, she tries to remain optimistic. 

“I’m still grieving, but I can still see the light,” she said. “I’ve still got faith. Everything is going to be OK.”

Hardship first arose at the beginning of July, when Dodd was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I was tired. I was in pain. ... I had a lump on my left breast,” recalled Dodd, 36, who had previously spent 10 years with the Fannie Lou Hamer Cancer Foundation as a community health worker. She helped women throughout the Delta get mammograms.

“When people first hear cancer, they think they’re going to die, but my mind kept telling me,  ‘You’re going to make it,’” she said.

She said her father, Willie Dodd, was her biggest supporter, telling her that she could beat it.

Dodd said her cancer was removed during surgery July 31 at Dr. Douglas Bowden’s clinic in Grenada. Now recovering, she has to go through chemotherapy treatment every three weeks.

In early September, Dodd’s father died two days after he had retired. He was 62.

“My dad was my everything. He was my biggest supporter, and everything I did, he was there,” Dodd said. “He made sure I had everything I needed.”

In October, Dodd lost two more family members in a car accident — her 47-year-old cousin, Sandra Coleman, as well as Tiara Coleman, Sandra Coleman’s 3-month-old granddaughter.

Though the year has been rough, Dodd has counted her blessings.

“I’m thankful for the strength, for the progress,” she said. “I’m thankful for my health. Everybody that’s been there for me, I’m thankful for them. Being able to just be with people, to still be alive.

“I’m thankful to still be a mom to my son. That’s a lot in itself,” she said. “I’m making good progress. I’m able to continue in the movement of being able to still help people.”

Starting in January, she hopes she can fully recover to start helping the community again while also being there for her 15-year-old son, Dezmond Dodd and her mother, Bertha Dodd. The three live together in Greenwood.

Dodd grew up in Itta Bena and graduated from Leflore County High School in 2003 with honors. She then studied biology, first at Mississippi Valley State University and then at Jackson State University.

When she worked for the Fannie Lou Hamer Cancer Foundation, Freddie White-Johnson, the founder and president of the foundation, helped connect Dodd with other organizations.

She also serves as the Mississippi ambassador for the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, a Washington, D.C.- based organization that funds patient research.

Dodd has also assisted with Research!America, another nonprofit health organization, and through the University of Mississippi Medical Center, she taught residents in the Delta ways to reduce their risk of colon cancer.

Dodd also received an honor from Girl Scout Troop 30093 and worked as a regional diabetes coordinator through a Greenwood office of the Mississippi State Department of Health.

“My passion is helping the community,” Dodd said. “Public health has been inspiring to me. I’ve had a passion to help people since high school, and one thing I know for sure, a healthy community is a prospering community.”

Dodd has assisted the Greenwood Community Center by donating money and researching grant possibilities.

“She’s a very good person,” said Debra Adams, one of the founders of the Community Center.

• Contact Gerard Edic at 581-7239 or gedic@gwcommonwealth.com.

A previous version of this story had the incorrect name of Latania Dodd's father, Willie Dodd. 

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