Interview about my journey by Tamika Cody part one
10 Minutes: Breast Cancer the Final Phase
10 Minutes - A new web series where we have conversations with interesting people 10 minutes at a time. In this episode of 10 Minutes, our digital journalist, Tamika Cody, sat down with breast cance...
Interview about my journey by Tamika Cody part two
More Minutes: Dedicating my life to tattooing areolas
10 Minutes - A new web series where we have conversations with interesting people 10 minutes at a time. Sometimes, a story takes more than 10 minutes. In this segment of More Minutes, our digital jo...
Life After Cancer:
Before my diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer, I thought I was Wonder Woman! I was a Mother of two beautiful children, a full-time Substitute Teacher, Landlord, and a student at the University of South Florida. Everything was great! Cancer? no way! That was not on my itinerary!
During a routine gynecological visit, I was told to get a mammogram. As my doctor was doing the circular motions on my breast, he said “well. you’re 41 years old now and should get a screening once a year.” He stopped and then felt my right breast again and said..."hmmm I can’t tell if I feel something, but, just go do it, it’s easy and it’s quick." I thought to myself, he was right, I should just go do it. Heck, it’s something I could post on Facebook and tell everyone I did. Well, time didn't agree so I put off having the mammogram and then put it off again and again. I was uneducated about cancer! I had no idea that early detection saves lives! I regret not listening! In just a short time, the tumor grew very fast.
In May of 2012, I had a removal/lumpectomy, I was told it was benign, no cancer. That was great! No cancer! Awesome! But wait.....after being removed, the tumor came back two weeks later and grew the size of a large orange! The surgeon said to see him in a year and had no explanation. Well, it wasn't until after two more months and another biopsy that I was diagnosed with stage 3,
triple negative breast cancer
– according to BreastCancer.org-
it’s a rare and invasive cancer. Only 10 to 20% of those diagnosed with breast cancer are “triple negative.” The person with this type do not have estrogen and progesterone receptors and do not over express the HER2 protein. Most breast cancers associated with the gene BRCA1 are triple negative. These cancers generally respond well to chemotherapy given after surgery. But the cancer tends to come back. So far, no targeted therapies have been developed to help prevent cancer returning in women with triple-negative breast cancer.
I was just shy of my 42nd birthday when I was diagnosed. I had two tumors and lymph node involvement. I was advised by my Oncologist that I had a fight on my hands. I underwent five months of chemotherapy that melted away the two tumors (one the size of a large grapefruit). I had a double mastectomy with reconstruction and 33 daily radiation treatments– this is the most common plan and it saved my life.
During chemotherapy, I had plenty of time on my hands so I hashed out a plan...a goal. I decided to change my career from teaching to something completely different. I chose the permanent makeup field because I wanted to do something that would enable me to work with survivors. Currently, I tattoo Areolas for breast cancer survivors. Whew, talk about a career change. No more snot or grading papers for me. Now I get to celebrate life, share my testimony to help others, and to make people feel better about themselves! I am very blessed and honored to finally be at this stage of my journey. During chemotherapy, I did what any other teacher would do….I did my homework. I scoured the internet for information and examples. My son told me that I think about breasts more than a teen-aged boy. Lol What can I say? I’m dedicated. During this time, I also became educated on different reconstruction options. I almost did not do reconstruction. Like many survivors, I felt “enough was enough," I wanted to be done with surgeries! It took a while, but I finally decided that I wanted reconstruction because I wanted to look in the mirror and tell cancer “IT DID NOT WIN!!” Also, because I wanted to relate to my clients. They mean the world to me! I chose to have the DIEP flap surgery. It is a type of breast reconstruction in which blood vessels, skin, and fat connected are removed from the lower abdomen and transferred to the chest to reconstruct what looks like a natural breast after a mastectomy. Six months after my reconstruction, I had my first experience with tattooing Areolas. Yes, I tattooed my own. Like many survivors, I do not fear or sweat the small stuff. We earned our name “survivor.” So tattooing was not a big deal for me. Thankfully, my dream has become a reality. Currently, I get referrals from many surgeons and I travel across the United States tattooing other survivors and previvors. I really want everyone to know that “no dream is too big.” Please stay positive, proactive, educated, and strong. I pray for a cure, but until then, we must continue to tell everyone about our journey. Our testimony has the potential to save lives! Please get checked!!