Tonya’s Preventive Mastectomy: All My Sisters Had Breast Cancer
I have a wonderful husband named Curtis, and I have two beautiful children, Winston and Lauren. I am a registered nurse. I’ve always done cardiothoracic and trauma intensive care. It’s not about you anymore, it’s about you just save this life. And so I just get a hundred percent gratification from that other than a nurse. I’m kind of a construction girl so I can build some things. And I also loved work in my yard and I love entertaining my friends. So I’m a country girl really. Breast cancer came into my family at a very, very early age for myself and for my sisters. It came in roaring like a line, and it didn’t stop When I was 12, my first sister got diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 31 when she passed away. All six of my sisters had breast cancer. And when I was 19 years old, I was in the military and the doctor, he was doing a breast exam and he found a mass in my breast and he said, You need to get it checked. It was assessed, but it was benign. I became very anxious, very anxious. It was so I just couldn’t do it. And then when I had kids, it made it worse.
When you’ve had six sisters with breast cancer, a exam is just not an exam. It’s almost like a diagnosis. There was times when I would get mammograms twice a year, six months, and then at some point you need a ultrasound at one o’clock, two o’clock, you need a spine compression over here. You need to get MRIs, you need to get assist biopsy. It was something all the time. The time came for and another exam, the radiologist saw something, of course on a mammogram. So he said, I gotta do a biopsy because of your family history. Did a biopsy benign. He came back in and he said, Have you ever considered removing your breasts? I couldn’t take it no more. I was tired of crying. I was tired of praying, I was tired of waiting and I needed something now. And I looked at this man and I said, How much is it gonna cost me to put these titties in a bucket? And he looked at me and he said, I have never been asked that question before. And I said, Well, today is the first. I’m under a black cloud and I can’t live the rest of my life like this.
I want all of my sisters to get tested. Although I wanna give this information and I wanna talk, and I want this to be an open platform. I have to be considered the fact that I’m the only one that hasn’t had breast cancer. I’ve never had it. And I felt guilty. I felt guilty for wanting to talk about it. I wanted to live. I can’t allow my children to be without a mother. I can’t allow my husband to be without a wife. I can keep going every six months and having these tests over and over again, or I can make a decision to make my life better. What I was looking for was first honesty. I was looking for a perfectionist. I was looking for someone that that’s what they did every day.
At that point, all I needed to do was talk to the doctor to see what he was gonna be like. I needed to know what was the scarring gonna look like. I knew that it wasn’t gonna be perfect, but I wanted to know the options and I wanted to know the reality of it. I wanted you to be true to me and being a black skin because you treat that skin differently. I’m a nurse. I know they look differently when they heal. The scars turn different colors. So he was very, very open with what he could and could do. It feels amazing. I feel like I can live again. I can finally live without that fear. I don’t have to have another spot, depression, another mri, another biopsy, another ultrasound. I don’t have to do that anymore. In the black communities, a lot of time it’s just the culture. You just don’t talk about things, especially medical things. With my sisters, we don’t talk about the details. We should know more about each other Medically at this point, this should be a open conversation. It’s not gonna stop at my generation. We have generations to follow. So this is a new phase for all of us. I’m hoping that we can all tell stories from different angles and reach more people.
I’m looking forward to my kids. I only have two more years here with Winston. Lauren is in college, so I’m trying to grab home every little second there. Give me now because mom is not as important as she used to be. Curtis and I are just gonna try to live out the best life we can at this point and love on life, especially now cuz going through Covid 19 and having to do this this way just shows me that when you have the opportunity to dance, you better dance. So I’m gonna dance.