Cancer sufferer's shock answer to friends' question
WHEN Helen Mees asked how she could help a friend undergoing treatment for breast cancer, the response potentially saved her life.
The answer? Have regular screenings.
Ms Mees was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, two years after the request from her close friend.
Her story highlights why all eligible women should take advantage of free breast screening available across West Moreton.
"My friend carried the gene for breast cancer in her family and was given a scare when she found some lumps," the Karalee mother-of-two said.
"A couple of us said 'what can we do to help?'
"She said 'the best thing you could ever do is have regular checks'.
"At that stage I had never bothered, I was 50 or so, but I signed up to BreastScreen Ipswich and I must have had breast screens for two to three years without any problems."
Then one day, following a routine breast screen appointment, Ms Mees received a call from BreastScreen Ipswich asking her to return for a repeat mammogram.
Following a series of breast screens, and a biopsy Ms Mees was told she had breast cancer.
At first she was shocked.
"When you go on a journey with breast cancer, or any kind of medical issue, you meet a lot of people and you realise that some are better off and some are worse off,'' Ms Mees said.
"There is no picking it, you do what you can, and have to let go of the rest."
Ms Mees was grateful for the support she received throughout her diagnosis and treatment.
"My experience of BreastScreen Ipswich was very positive.
"The support I got from them that day (of the diagnosis) was so powerful," she said.
"I fought very hard to keep my work going so I was still going to work sometimes (during chemotherapy) but sometimes I wasn't well enough to go.
"I lived on my own and I was very fortunate to have extended family and neighbours for support."
Ms Mees went through chemotherapy and radiation before being given the news she had been waiting to hear; she was in remission.
Now, Ms Mees is a proud champion of the health system and just as her friend did, strongly encourages other women to get regular breast screens.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Ms Mees has shared her story to encourage other women to "think pink" and make themselves a priority.
BreastScreen Ipswich nurse unit manager Nicola Godfrey said breast cancer screening was the most effective way to detect breast cancer early.
"With the help of early detection, the five year breast cancer survival rate is 90%," she said.
Ms Godfrey said too many women in the most at-risk age bracket were missing the opportunity to have a regular health check.
"It is particularly important for women aged between 50 and 74 to have a mammogram every two years as 76% of diagnosed breast cancers occur in women over 50 years of age."
The BreastScreen van will visit various places around Ipswich in coming weeks. Appointments are also available at BreastScreen, Ipswich Health Plaza, Bell St, Ipswich, Monday to Friday, 6.45am-5.30pm with some Saturday appointments. To make an appointment phone 13 20 50 or book at breastscreen.qld.gov.au.
Where to get the free service
BreastScreen Queensland - Ipswich Service's mobile screening van is at;
Riverlink Shopping Centre from 23 October to 3 November
Bundamba from 6 November to 10 November
Kambu Medical Centre from 4 to 14 December