A cervical cancer diagnosis prompted Tomeka Harps of Brandon to become an advocate for screening, the procedure that detected her cancer and led to immediate treatment.
Harps' cancer was discovered as part of the College of American Pathologists Foundation's See, Test & Treat® Program that provided free breast and pelvic cancer screening to underserved women. The screenings, along with one for acral melanoma, were offered by the University of Mississippi Medical Center, CAP and New Horizon Church in Jackson.
“That program is so important,” she said. “Since I've been diagnosed I've been talking to so many women. They haven't seen a doctor. Some can't afford it and some are scared.”
Recently, as she received chemotherapy, she rolled her IV into a hallway to meet Dr. Kim Geisinger, professor of pathology and one of the UMMC pathologists who helped organize the screening.
“This made the circle complete for me,” Geisinger said. “Pathologists, for the most part, don't get to meet patients post treatment. She looked happy. She has a positive outlook.”
Holding her hand, he offered encouragement. She offered thanks.
“Whatever I can do to be out there, to be that voice ... Whatever I can do to help, I will be there,” Harps said.
Harps uses her own story to advocate for screening.
After several years of having abnormal Pap test results, she got tired of the return visits and quit seeing her doctor, she said. Five years later, her New Horizon congregational care nurse, Ella Jackson, insisted the Brandon resident go to the Jan. 28 screening.
“It was Stage 2B,” Harps said. “I was diagnosed on Saturday. Bethany (Sabins) called me and said we need you to come in Monday morning. By Wednesday I was seeing a radiation oncologist.”