“You have breast cancer!” Those words that December day forever changed life as I knew it. It was as if time stood still. Maybe I misunderstood, maybe it was a mistake, or maybe this was real. To my horror I heard the words again. The doctor said “Tara, you have cancer”. They had to be kidding. I didn’t have time for this. I was 28 years old with two small children. All I could think of was my children, my husband, and my family. December 14, 1999 was the day that I began my journey for life with the amazing team of doctors at Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center.
My next appointment was with the surgeon at Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center. Dr. George Webber examined me and then asked to meet with my husband and I in his meeting room. With a gentle yet encouraging voice, Dr. Webber asked me if I was ready to fight this. It was at that point that I took a deep breath and made the decision to face this fight head on with everything that was within me.
After multiple surgeries, numerous scans, and a roller coaster ride of emotions, I was set to meet the next player in my team of supporters and doctors. Dr. Raymond Brig would be my oncologist/hematologist in charge of the chemotherapy portion of my recovery. There are no eloquent words to describe chemotherapy. It is what it is. I remember feeling as if with each treatment, it was trying to strip away the layers of hope, encouragement and love that I had within me. Love was stronger than the power of chemotherapy.
There is no doubt that breast cancer and its treatments took a physical toll on my body. I lost my breast, of which I am still trying to convince my insurance company to provide reconstruction, I lost my hair, and my immune system was damaged by the chemotherapy and radiation. What I gained from this experience far outweighs what was lost.
I witnessed firsthand the dedication of the physicians and the nurses to impart encouragement hope and love when I needed it the most. I was truly blessed to have a team of physicians under the roof of Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center who met weekly to discuss my individual case and to discuss treatment options. To them I was Tara Mallory, a mother, a wife and a woman who just happened to have breast cancer. My life was of great importance to them.
On a personal level, I found a strength and faith in God that I never knew before. I was able through all of the pain to expand my own heart and level of compassion. This experience has given me a personal experience to which I can and do connect with other women who are going through a similar experience. It is my responsibility to freely give what I was given during my time of need…faith, love, encouragement and hope!