Coping with a breast cancer diagnosis

Kameelah Hakeem was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. She told Newswatch 12 keeping a positive attitude is what got her through her battle.

Posted: Oct 17, 2021 4:36 PM

LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- A breast cancer diagnosis can seem to come out of nowhere for many people on the receiving end. For Kameelah Hakeem, mother to Newswatch 12 reporter Tyler Ridgle, the news of her cancer came at a time of transition.

In 2012, Hakeem received a letter from the Cedar Sinai Medical Center office where she would typically go to get mammogram screenings. The letter said there were "irregularities" from her previous imaging and that she would need another screening. She said she misinterpreted the letter, since she had a history of being "fibrocystic". She put it off for nearly 3 months before deciding to make the visit, as she moved into a new home in a new city.

When she arrived to her appointment, Hakeem said it seemed like she was in the wrong place.

"I scanned the room and noticed that there were a lot of women in the waiting room that looked visibly sick. I thought 'I'm in the wrong place.'"

Hakeem has been dedicated to her career as a legal professional for several years. In her community, she is known for keeping a tight schedule between work and philanthropic events. Because of this, she was in a rush to get out of the appointment in a timely manner.

"She was very kind to me and did not respond to my impatience. She said, "I'm so sorry to keep you waiting. Do you mind if I have the nurse practitioner speak to you?'"

When the nurse finally took her into a private room, Hakeem realized the situation was much more serious than she had initially perceived it to be.

The nurse practitioner told Hakeem it wasn't a mistake and that something had actually shown up in her previous screening.

In that moment, Hakeem said fear set in and began to put her health first.

During an ultrasound to investigate what was seen in the previous screening, Hakeem said the technician continued to massage one particular area. Then the nurse asked if she could stay for a biopsy.

She said when they stuck in the needle, blood spewed out.

As the nurse tried to stop the bleeding, Hakeem asked, "Can you tell me what's wrong with me?"

Soon after, Hakeem was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.

Hakeem knew that there was a history of breast cancer in her family, having lost her grandmother and aunt to the disease.

At 22 years old, Hakeem had a benign lump removed. In 2012, cancerous cells were found in the same location.

Tests were done for mutations in the BRCA1/2 gene, and Hakeem's results were negative.

At the time of her battle she did not get testing for the PALB2 gene.

Hakeem told Newswatch 12, that test is on her list of things to bring up to her oncologist. She said she encourages young women to inquire with their doctors about genetic testing so they can have a chance at cancer prevention.

Despite the time of transition, Hakeem said keeping her mind preoccupied on things that brought her joy and her connection to God kept her strong.

"Laughter is the best medicine."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

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