Tiah Tomlin was 10 years too young to get mammography when her nipple swirled in.
Despite the alarming change in her right breast, nothing came on a mammogram, and it was only four years later, on July 17, 2015, that 38 people were diagnosed with Tiah in cancer.
& # 39; When I felt the lump, it took my breath away and frightened me completely, and when I received the call, I was crying and crying, & # 39; says Tiah.
And not just a cancer – hers turned out to be a rare form that predominantly affects minorities and black women, such as Tiah.
Tiah's legs gave it to her and she could no longer walk. Her hair fell out and even her nails turned black and fell off her fingers.
But instead of giving up, she decided to give back and set up a support network in her hometown, Atlanta, Georgia, which would become a non-profit organization to bring together hundreds of women – most of whom are black or minorities are – to do everything from hold of each other's hands to give rides to chemo.
Four years later, Tiah is in remission and is constantly committed to raising awareness and distributing healthcare packages to help other women with breast cancer live a healthier lifestyle.
Tiah Tomlin was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer at the age of 38. She is in remission, but has become a tireless advocate for cancer care, and distributes healthy care packages to other minorities and women who are inadequately served and who fight the disease
HOW BREAST CANCER ELSE AFFECTS BLACK WOMEN
Fewer black women get breast cancer than white women, but a black woman is 40 percent more likely to die from the disease.
It is a trend that has long puzzled scientists and public health officials.
Various factors are most likely to play a role, because some aspects of cancer risk are explained by genetics, others by the environment and even more by the social treatment of patients.
Earlier this year, a group of Weill Cornell Medicine researchers discovered a group of gene variants that they dragged to a region in West Africa that could potentially increase breast cancer risk for women with ancestors from the area.
According to another study, African-American women have an approximately 40 percent higher risk of recurrence after their first diagnosis of breast cancer, and their risk of dying from the disease is more than 50 percent higher.
Although black women are less likely to be genetically tested than white women come first, they are more likely to test positive for BRCA1 mutations that put them at risk for certain types of breast cancer than their white counterparts.
In Tiah, one of the forms was diagnosed for which women with BRCA1 mutations – who are more common in black women – are at increased risk.
It is also one of the most aggressive and difficult-to-treat forms of the disease: triple negative breast cancer.
That meant that her tumor was negative for all three of the most common receptors that cause cancer cells to get out of hand.
Drugs that targeted precisely these receptors were therefore useless against Tiah's tumor.
Instead, her doctors developed an aggressive treatment plan, including eight chemotherapy rounds, a lumpectomy surgery to remove the mass in Tiah's right breast, followed by no fewer than 33 radiotherapy rounds.
During the months that the treatment lasted, Tiah felt miserable. She felt she was dying.
& # 39; It was really scary for me & # 39 ;, she says.
While she went to chemo, Tiah tried to miss as little work as possible because the company where she worked was in the middle of the layoffs.
It wasn't so much a job she was particularly attached to, or even one that paid for it very well, but Tiah had benefits through her employer, which meant that insurance bore the majority of her cancer treatment costs.
In 2015, Tiah had to undergo surgery to install a gate through which she would receive eight chemotherapy sessions. Her mother, Lynn Tomlin (right) comforts Tiah for the operation
Tiah & # 39; s now business partner, Shawn Lovings, stood next to her at the first of her eight chemo rounds (left). Chemo caused Tiah to lose her hair, but did not stop her from working and making contact with other women suffering from cancer (right)
Despite her best efforts, Tiah's position was shortened and her private insurance went along.
Instead, she had to get government-subsidized insurance through Medicaid.
About one in five Americans is on Medicaid.
Although the expansion of the program has contributed to a reduction in the number of Americans without insurance and, according to some studies, reduces inequalities, other research suggests that cancer patients & # 39; insufficient & # 39; receive care and have poorer results.
Tiah saw the difference in how she was treated immediately. Not so much in her medical treatment, but in how even her same doctors treated her.
Treatment, including eight chemo radios & 33 radios, was tough for Tiah, who at one point could barely walk and lose all her fingernails (left). But & # 39; I had something that fights & # 39; said Tiah, and she remained spunky, wearing a wig and boxing gloves (right)
She remembers an appointment with her oncologist during which Tiah & # 39; still had a conversation with her and that she left the room & # 39 ;, she says.
& # 39; I am the same patient who had insurance and now I am on Medicaid. & # 39;
The entire treatment test left Tiah discouraged and too weak to walk, so she noticed that she was recovering in bed while her fingernails turned black and then fell off.
But she took comfort in prayer and the memory of the father and brother she had lost in the years just before her own diagnosis.
& # 39; I was able to get rid of their power to help me fight. If they had not been through what they had done, I would not have known how to go through it, & says Tiah.
& # 39; It would have been easy to let go – I am single, I have no children – but I saw them, and so I had something called fighting. & # 39;
Tiah also longed for tangible support from women she could see and live with.
& # 39; I went through a treatment … and as I went through that journey, there were so many gaps in support groups and I wanted to be part of it, & # 39; said Tiah.
She went, but when she got there, she was disappointed.
Tiah credits her mother, Lynn (right), for the care of her during her cancer journey
During chemo, Tiah My Breast started Years Ahead, a support network of mostly young, minority women, such as herself, who suffered from cancer. She posed for a powerful photo shoot to promote the group (pictured)
& # 39; I went to support groups and nobody looked like me & # 39 ;, she says.
& # 39; No one was young and I am a black girl, and when I got there it was a bunch of older white women.
& # 39; Not that that's a problem, but I had questions they couldn't answer. & # 39;
Tiah wanted to know about fertility and dating. She wanted to talk about her fear that nobody would love her after cancer left her breasts scarred.
And as she went through the treatment, she saw, heard, and experienced the health differences she had had a vague sense of, and discovered that they were much worse than she thought.
The effects of chemotherapy on black men and women have not been widely studied and it can influence her genetics in a different way than it could in a white woman.
Since then, Tiah has heard some horror stories in conversations with other color women who have fought or who have fought breast cancer.
& # 39; A doctor said (to another patient), & # 39; your breasts are ugly, i will never bring you back to a size DD & # 39; & # 39; after a breast amputation, Tiah explained.
Within a year, Tiah had embraced her bald head and had her last chemotherapy. Here, tired but proud, she holds up her last bag of chemo drugs
So she started forming a new kind of family – a network of women with cancer patients that she brought together through a Facebook group that she called My Breast Years Ahead.
She wanted the group & # 39; else & # 39; would be for the women's groups in Atlanta that she had joined.
Instead, she tried to create a women's web that looked more like her – younger than 65 and minorities.
& # 39; Things I hear from young black women I don't hear from older white women & # 39 ;, she says about her motivation to start My Breast Years Ahead.
& # 39; I wanted this group to be a group of women who could come into contact with each other, not just send prayer emoji & # 39; s.
Since she went into remission, Tiah (right) founded My Style Matters, a non-profit organization that educates women – especially those who are minors or insufficiently served – about the importance of lifestyles for cancer prevention and care, including care packages Cancer to give patients love this woman (left)
Tiah's group now includes around 380 women who are ready to meet for a cup of coffee, a shoulder to cry on or to listen to an ear.
They support each other through financial investigations that make it almost impossible to get treatment.
One woman, Tiah says, & # 39; has no family, no vehicle, and she needs multiple forms of public transportation, and then she had to walk to her infusions.
& # 39; The number of times she has fallen or had to wait there for a van to pick her up after she had had her infusions … & # 39; Tiah walks away.
& # 39; People are losing their homes because they are losing their jobs and I have to be part of the solution, & # 39; says Tiah.
By October 2015, the cancer had finally disappeared from Tiah's own scans, but she couldn't dispel the feeling that she should be part of improving cancer care, especially for minority women.
She started to do that My Style Matters, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching and empowering cancer patients to make lifestyle choices that give them the best possible injection against the disease.
As part of the non-profit organization, she makes care packages, in the form of brightly colored bags with drawstring, filled with non-toxic alternatives to regular personal care products, as well as information about healthy lifestyle choices and local resources.
The care packages of Tiah are designed to teach through experience, to introduce women to non-toxic personal care, cleaning and other products and to provide information about financial and other resources.
The purpose of her organization is & # 39; primarily to learn about lifestyle & # 39 ;, Tiah says.
& # 39; The majority of cancers can be prevented by lifestyle & # 39; – between 70 and 90 percent, according to an NIH-funded study – & therefore we provide a care package full of non-toxic things to make those changes. & # 39;
A healthy lifestyle, says Tiah, & if you look at the under-served, under-represented communities, that's not what they were taught culturally and, unless we provide it – not only tell, but give them an experience & # 39; who have won changes & # 39; t is probably made.
Tiah continues to work locally and in her Atlanta community and has even talked on Capitol Hill to advocate for the Cancer Communications and Planning Act and never forget what she said to herself when she was finally on her way to recover from her own cancer fight : & # 39; I promise to go back and help others. & # 39;
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