For Tameeka Jones, a 28-year-old mother-of-one, cancer was not something that had ever crossed her mind. That was until she felt a lump…
Since giving birth to her daughter, Amarnii, Tameeka often felt lumps in her breasts, so she wasn’t overly concerned.
On this occasion, she went to the doctor just in case.
‘Never once did I think I could have had cancer,’ she tells New Idea. ‘They said to me, 'look, it's very common for women to get lumps in their breasts, we’ll go and get some tests and we’ll make sure it’s nothing',’ Jones recalls.
Days later Tameeka was called back in and then came the shock diagnosis.
She had breast cancer.
‘A week later, I started my first round of chemo.’
Tameeka recalls that day clearly, and remembers thinking: ‘OK, what do we do now?’
Not only was Tameeka struggling to come to terms with her diagnosis, but she also had to think of her daughter.
‘At the time, my little girl was only one-and-a-half, so not only that but I have a little one-year-old who I'm raising, by myself, being a single mum, and now I had to worry about fighting to be here longer for her’
Like so many other women in Australia, she had no genetic history of cancer, she was young, healthy, and had been feeling well leading up to her diagnosis.
‘It can’t happen to me! It won’t happen to me! I’m young,’ Tameeka remembers thinking at the time.
The reality is though, that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the time they turn 85.
That’s why Tameeka decided to become involved with Breast Cancer Trials (BCT).
The organisation is the largest independent oncology clinical trials research group in Australia and New Zealand and has been responsible for ground-breaking developments in breast cancer research, treatment and prevention for over 40 years.
‘I think the great thing about breast cancer trials is that it is the one group that directly does research that impacts the benefits of women, and of course men, who are diagnosed with breast cancer,’ said Professor Christobel Saunders, the Board Director of Breast Cancer Trials.
For Tameeka, participating in the trial was one of the ways she found hope in her diagnosis.
‘I already had it in my mind that I was going to do it,’ Tameeka says. ‘I’m either going to help someone else, or it’s going to help me.’
‘It’s a physical thing to have breast cancer, but it is a mind game to stay positive, and trials give us hope,’ Prof. Saunders explains.
Prof Saunders has some simple tips for women and says ‘self awareness’ is key.
‘That doesn’t mean every month examining your breasts, what it means is getting to know your breasts and knowing what is normal for you,’ Dr. Saunders explains.
Self-awareness can be anything from looking at your breasts in the mirror, putting your hands above your head, checking that there are no obvious lumps or redness, or that a section of skin looks noticeably different than before – it is dependant on individual normalities.
‘Just get to know what your breasts feel like normally and therefore when you do check them for any abnormalities you’ll be able to pick it up,’ Prof. Saunders says.
To know your risks, and to see how you can help, see the official Breast Cancer Trials website.