Tomika Bryant, Montgomery County
It started with me feeling really tired, just no energy, and I thought it was low blood sugar. And then I got an email that the Fox Chase Cancer Center’s mammography van was coming to my husband’s workplace at GlaxoSmithKline. My gynecologist had been telling me to get a mammogram and then the day the van was scheduled, I felt a lump in the shower. I thought I must have been imagining things. I got the mammogram done, told them about the lump I felt, and they saw it. I needed to get a biopsy. That was right before Mother’s Day in 2013.
Afterwards I got a call saying it was triple-negative breast cancer. She started talking about grade and tumor size and I didn’t know what it all meant. I decided to get a second opinion at Penn and wound up having surgery and treatment there. I had a double mastectomy and tram flap for reconstruction. I had to have chemo but no radiation because there was no node involvement. My treatment is all finished now.
Throughout the process, my mother and my husband made sure I was never alone. They asked questions and helped me. I sat my children down and explained everything to them and hoped they would understand. My son couldn’t imagine at the time how mommy could be sick. That didn’t happen. He was afraid. My daughter was all about the pink ribbon and asked a lot of questions. I teach her about looking out for things in her own body.
The whole experience showed me that I’m a lot stronger than I ever thought I was. It gave me a new reason for living and a new voice. I feel like I can conquer anything now. I feel like there are times in our lives when we let fear cripple us. Now after all I’ve gone through I learned that fear is not real. I don’t have time to play with fear.
When it was all done, I said I gave cancer its eviction notice out of my body and apparently it accepted that. I encourage other women to share their stories if they can because you don’t know who you might help. I was blessed because I had a large village of people who stepped in to help.