My name is Tara and I am 45.
I am a wife, a mother of two teenage boys, a healthcare provider, a good friend, and an avid organic gardener. I have no family history of breast cancer, I have never smoked, I enjoy one gin & tonic a week, I exercise daily, I eat clean, maintain a healthy weight, sleep 7 hours every night, I avoid plastics, I had a normal menstrual cycle starting in my early teens and nursed both of my babies. You get my point…. I lived a lifestyle that I thought – for certain- would protect me from my greatest fear.
My only risk factors for breast cancer were:
Fibrodense breast tissue
I was diagnosed with ER+/PR+/HER2- invasive breast cancer on March 13, 2020 and underwent bilateral, skin-sparing mastectomy with axillary and sentinel node dissection on March 26, 2020.
There were 3 separate cancers in my left breast, all Stage 1A. This means the tumors were under 2 cm and no spread to lymph nodes. My prognosis is fantastic and I do not require chemotherapy or radiation.
I never felt any of the cancer tumors in my left breast and had no symptoms worrisome for breast cancer…with one exception; a year after I stopped nursing my last child, I could express a tiny amount of greenish fluid from both nipples. My gynecologist told me this could be normal, but recommended further evaluation. I had my first mammogram at age 36. I was diagnosed with dense breast tissue, but no concerning findings.
I was advised to continue yearly mammograms because my breast tissue was so dense. Last year, my mammogram images began to show concerning changes and I underwent 3 biopsies: 2 on the left and 1 on the right. They came back benign (no cancer). I had a 6 month follow up breast MRI showing no changes.
Six months later, in February 2020, I had another mammogram and ultrasound, followed by 3 biopsies on the left breast. 2 of 3 returned positive for cancer.
I understand that I am very fortunate. Early my breast cancer was caught early because of high-risk(dense breast tissue)mammogram surveillance.
I first heard about Know Your Lemons while I was recovering from breast cancer surgery. A woman I was following on Instagram- she’d also been recently diagnosed with invasive breast cancer- boasted that their information about early detection and signs of breast cancer was so helpful to her. She raved about her new breast-exam coach, Mona Lisa!
I am beyond impressed with the Know Your Lemons Foundation- their mission to educate women about the signs of breast cancer and the importance of early detection is so important and relevant. Moreover, the extent to which Know Your Lemons goes to educate and empower women about self-advocacy and persistence in getting the medical attention they deserve is awe-inspiring.
For these and many other reasons, I am proud to say I am a certified “Lemonista”! I have completed the Know Your Lemons Certified Global Educator course and now volunteer my time to help achieve the global effort to reduce deaths from breast cancer.
To follow Tara on her journey and her teachings, visit her Instagram.