[00:00:00] Adam Walker: Join us as we celebrate Black History Month where we’ll honor Komen researchers dedicated to helping us reduce health disparities in Black women, encourage Black women to know their family history and risk factors, and empower Black women to share their personal stories. Together, we Stand for H.E.R. – a Health Equity Revolution.
Support for the Real Pink Podcast comes from Ford Warriors in Pink. To date, Ford has dedicated 138 million dollars to the fight against breast cancer. You can help by shopping FordCares.com. When you do, one hundred percent of the net proceeds help warriors move.
From Susan G Komen, this is Real Pink, a podcast exploring real stories, struggles, and triumphs related to breast cancer. We’re taking the conversation from the doctor’s office to your living room.
After completing breast cancer treatment, many women want to leave the experience far behind them and not think about it again. That’s perfectly understandable. Others find that the experience changes their thinking about what they want to do with their life. Our guest today is one of those people. After two cancer diagnoses, she decided to devote her career to helping women navigate the challenges of breast cancer. She is a Community Programs Manager for Stand for H.E.R.—a Health Equity Revolution, a focused initiative to decrease breast cancer disparities in the Black community by 25 percent, beginning in the U.S. metropolitan areas where inequities are greatest. Joining us to walk us through her journey and talk about her work with Stand for H.E.R. is Kamesha Miles. Kamesha, welcome!
[00:01:42] Kamesha Miles: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. Well,
[00:01:44] Adam Walker: I’m really looking forward to this. I love the specificity of the initiative of Stanford, her to decrease by 25%.
Like that’s, that’s a pretty amazing goal. I love that, but we’re going to get into that, but let’s start with you. Okay. So at 29 you were diagnosed with stage three. And what is it? ER, plus invasive breast cancer. How you found out you had breast cancer and what led to your diagnosis?
[00:02:13] Kamesha Miles: Well, basically, um, I was working out one day and I felt some pain in my right breast.
And I went home and my mom had worked in the nursing field for awhile and she noticed that one of my areas was inverted. And so, um, she said, that’s not know. That doesn’t look good. We need to get that checked out. Um, and I was having a little pain on the right side, so we go to my doctor and immediately right after the mammogram, they took me in for a biopsy.
So after the biopsy, I can hear my mom kind of crying in the background because she knew. You know, if it was that urgent for them to do that, it might be some problem. So later I was, you know, it takes about 10 days or at least two weeks before they, you know, get back with you about your, um, about your tests.
And the doctor calls me in the office and, um, he says you have stage three breast cancer. And I said, Paused. I was known, I didn’t really feel anything. I couldn’t hear what he was telling me. My mom was there at least to, you know, kind of, you know, interject for me or ask questions that, um, that’s how I found out about the, the first, the first diagnosis.
[00:03:32] Adam Walker: Wow. I mean that that’s gotta be just incredibly difficult. So what I mean, what were you told at that time?
[00:03:39] Kamesha Miles: Um, basically that.
The doctor told me it’s fixable. That’s that was his first words to me. He said, I’m not going to guarantee anything, but I can, I can, I can help you as much as I can. And I really liked his blatant and transparent behavior. Um, So I went through my rounds of chemotherapy. Well, first I had a mastectomy and then I had chemotherapy on my, on my 30th birthday.
And that was my first chemo therapy. Yeah. What do I celebrate a birthday? Right. And then I, uh, finished a 45 rounds of radiation and then I had reconstructive surgery. Um, and so I completed all that. It took about four to five years for my first treatment to be completed, um, altogether.
[00:04:35] Adam Walker: Wow. I mean, that’s quite a bit, I mean, I’m curious, like what, you know, as you were diagnosed, as you were starting to sort of deal with treatment, like what, what were you thinking?
What were your thoughts like, you know, where were you at?
[00:04:48] Kamesha Miles: Honestly, I just kind of pushed my sight, my emotions aside because I knew it was a hard journey. I didn’t have time to be sad. I really loved my family. I really love my mom. My mom had gone through cervical cancer at 30 as well. Um, and so I kinda had a history of how dealing with cancer can affect the family.
I didn’t want to put a burden on my family, so I really just put this on my emotions and I. I just went through the motions, even when I didn’t want to go for my chemotherapy or my radiation, my mom’s like, oh, now you’re gone. So don’t even try it. You’re going. So, you know, I, I just pushed through it. And then later on, you know, I dealt with the emotional impact as best as I can.
[00:05:35] Adam Walker: yeah, so I want to, I want to get to that. So I understand that you were later diagnosed with stage four metastatic breast cancer, which had spread to your lungs and bones. And I know that’s just a huge blow, but then at the same time, I know your mother was dying of cervical cancer and your niece was also being treated for stage four, breast cancer.
I mean, can you talk a little bit about just how you handled just the weight of all of that.
[00:06:02] Kamesha Miles: Um, I have not handled the weight of all of it yet. So like I said, when, when things get really tough and you just have to push through some things in order to, um, in order to survive at the moment now to thrive.
It’s a little bit later on once you can get over that, that hump. Um, my mom, you know, unfortunately my mom did pass away at 2020 and my niece is still fighting her. She is an inspiration. Because she is 32 years old. She takes care of her family and she’s fighting, going, driving herself to her chemotherapy appointments and everything.
She is a inspiration to me. So, um, seeing her beautiful face helps me to remember that I have something to live for too. And especially my, my dad and my brothers and sisters and things of.
[00:07:00] Adam Walker: That’s right. That’s right. Well, she sounds like an inspiration, so,
[00:07:04] Kamesha Miles: so glad that those people you meet and you just fall in love with there.
[00:07:09] Adam Walker: great. Yeah. Great. Well, so let’s talk a little bit. Can you give us some insight into what your treatment was like and what was it like going through it? Um,
[00:07:19] Kamesha Miles: well, the. When I first, I first got a, um, a mastectomy on the right breast and then, um, they wanted to do chemotherapy, um, because when they went into, uh, they wanted to make sure that they have removed as much as the margin as possible.
And when they went in to do the chemotherapy, they want it to kill any excess of cells that is left over. So, um, I went through six rounds of chemotherapy and then after that I did the radiation. Um, just another third step for anyone diagnosed at a very young age is a very aggressive type of treatment.
Um, and that’s because the, our cellular rights multiply so fast, the cancer is more aggressive in our bodies. Um, and then after that, uh, after the radiation, I eventually. Had another, uh, they took off the other breast because I just, I didn’t want to have that percentage on me anymore. So they took off the other one and they said I’m a candidate for a deep tramp flap, which is basically using your own body tissue to restructure your breasts.
So, um, I finished all that probably from 2013 to 20 16, 20 15. So that it was a, yeah,
[00:08:43] Adam Walker: that sounds like a very long road. And, uh, but you made it right. You’re here and yeah. And I woke up this
[00:08:50] Kamesha Miles: morning, so we’re
[00:08:51] Adam Walker: thankful for that. We really are. So I understand that you, you started doing some volunteer work with Susan G Komen.
Uh, can you talk about that work and how that changed your thinking about your own career?
[00:09:05] Kamesha Miles: I, you know, it was very difficult coming through a cancer. Um, diagnosis and trying to find work at I, that I had previously known. I was a graphic designer for many years and yeah. So, you know, I did a, I did a lot of, uh, design work and, um, a friend of mine, I went to high school with, she actually asked me if I wanted to volunteer one day.
So she gives me the, you know, she gives me the, um, The T and the, in the table. And I put all the, you know, the, uh, the educational material on the table and all these women start walking up and they’re talking about their mom and their sister or their own personal experience. And it just, you know, and I had just completed my reconstructive surgery.
It was. A enlightening experience that I wanted to do it again. So I started to volunteer it. Eventually. I found a, a position that opened up that kind of fit a bit of the criteria that I had in my past history from work. Um, and I applied for the job and I got it. So, um, I did start out as a volunteer though.
Well, that’s great.
[00:10:16] Adam Walker: That’s a great way to start out. That really is, it gives you a, I think a great perspective, right. Um, and, and maybe even a deeper appreciation for the work that you do. Um, so. What do you do in your current job as community programs manager for Stanford?
[00:10:32] Kamesha Miles: Well, Stanford, her health equity revolution is to decrease black mortality rate in women with breast cancer by 25%.
Um, in my position, my, my goal is to reach other, uh, community-based organizations that can partner with us in developing programs, um, patient navigation, uh, We, we touch on genetic testing, um, genetic testing and counseling education. And my job is to make sure that we are getting those partners in with us and actually being able to show Stanford her and what we, what we mean and what we’re, what we’re doing in the community and creating those partnerships.
And after creating those partnerships, making sure that we are. Giving health equity to African-American women through the medical system and also through their own self-advocacy. Um,
[00:11:28] Adam Walker: and I just want to make sure we’ve talked about this on this show many times, but for listeners that may be new to the show.
I do want to make sure that, that we touch on this. Um, so the statistics are, and I’m hoping maybe you can give me the specific ones, but the statistics are that the black women. Uh, how, what you, you give this a six, right? You know, you and all the
[00:11:46] Kamesha Miles: information. So, so African-American women have a higher mortality rate, 40% more than their Caucasian counterparts.
So 40% into actually have less diagnosis of breast cancer, but to actually have a higher mortality rate than those that are being diagnosed at higher rates. So that’s the disparity that we’re trying to do. Hmm,
[00:12:08] Adam Walker: that’s good. That’s simple. And that’s it. That’s why this is such an important initiative. And that’s why the work that you do is just so critically important.
And I can’t tell you how much I appreciate, uh, the work that you’re doing. And again, I love that that very specific goal. So, uh, for, for listeners that are listening to us right now and they want to get involved, uh, how would they go about.
[00:12:30] Kamesha Miles: Um, you can go to our email@example.com. And if you click on the about breast cancer, go to the bottom and you can click on health equity, and it’ll take you right to our health equity page about advancing health equity and breast cancer care.
[00:12:47] Adam Walker: Um, and it’s such an important thing, uh, in advancing health equity in breast cancer care. Um, Kenesha, do you have any, any final thoughts from your own. Or from your volunteerism or from your work that you would like to share with our audience before you
[00:13:01] Kamesha Miles: go? Um, from my personal experience outside of my work experience, um, I saved my own journey has not been in vain.
And, uh, as long as you’re from my personal experience, if you’re giving. To the world and your experience, you gained something back from it. And from also working with Coleman, I’ve been with Coleman for six years now, and it’s wonderful to be able to work with headquarters now and working with the Stanford, her, uh, health equity program.
And all I can say is you just, just help helping is, uh, is a blessing and a miracle, and you get it three times back, but don’t ask for it back, but just.
[00:13:46] Adam Walker: Yeah, I love what you said. If you’re giving to the world, then you get something back. Uh, so true and so many ways. And so if you’re listening, I would encourage you to get involved with Susan G Komen.
So, uh, Kamisha this has been amazing. Thank you for sharing your life with us, your story, and thank you for the great work that.
[00:14:04] Kamesha Miles: Thank you so much. Thank you for how to be happy. Thanks
[00:14:07] Adam Walker: Thanks to Ford Warriors in Pink for supporting the Real Pink Podcast. To learn more about their transportation grant program and other efforts to help breast cancer patients, visit ford cares dot com
Thanks for listening to Real Pink, a weekly podcast by Susan G Komen. For more episodes, visit RealPink.com. For more on breast cancer, visit Komen.org. Make sure to check out at Susan G Komen on social media. I’m your host, Adam, you can find me on Twitter @AJWalker or on my blog, AdamJWalker.com