There's no better feeling than being woke. Not only about society, but your health too.
Know Your Girls is helping African-American women get in touch with the vital needs of maintaining a healthy, cancer-free status. Nikia Hammonds-Blakely spoke with TheGrio about the work she's been doing with the organization and being diagnosed at 16-years-old.
Nikia admitted she happened to pay attention to a mysterious lump in her breast by accident while bathing. Minor pain was enough to share it with her mother who took her to the doctor for a routine check up. Because she was at a tender age of development, initial thoughts were that her boobs were just growing. However, a biopsy was done (to be on the safe side) and it came back as a "rare and aggressive form of breast cancer."
She struggled making a decision on how to go about healing. Her religious background told her to have faith in God, but medical professionals advised a double mastectomy. Nikia eventually decided on a partial mastectomy that may have helped the seriousness of her state, but emotionally destroyed her.
"They removed a large part of my left breast. I didn’t know about reconstructive surgery or prostheses, special bras, or anything that could have made the process easier. I left the procedure pretty disfigured. They did a botched job on the surgery and that scarred me physically and emotionally. It was really tough to look in the mirror and feel like a monster. I wondered what my life would be like. Would I ever get married, would I ever have children or breastfeed?”
It was another 18 years when she returned to a doctor who saw "suspicious activity" in her other breast during a mammogram. This time, after being told to wait a year to see what happens, Nikia decided to be just as aggressive as her previous diagnosis.
"I was infuriated. I wasn’t about to let the doctor just send me out the door so I advocated for myself and insisted on getting it tested immediately. It turned out to be very early stages of breast cancer.”
Making a move to get a double mastectomy greatly helped her physically since there hasn't been a trace of cancer since then. It also benefitted her mental well-being, giving her a feeling of control she didn't experience the first time around: something she wants all girls to feel.
“I want women to know their bodies, 'know your girls' and be a champion for yourself. Doctors will sometimes wish you away and you have to lift your voice and advocate for yourself."
Now, at 41-years-old, Nikia is proud to work with Know Your Girls as an advocate by sharing her story to inspire black girls who don't have access to information due to living in low-income neighborhoods.
"What I love about Know Your Girls is that they have really tailored the information to be accessible and understandable to the everyday women. They tell you how to talk to your doctors, what questions to ask, and how to support loved ones going through this disease.”
Learn how to get involved with their movement here.
Photo: Know Your Girls website