Lisa Tate: The Ultimate Survivor’s Story
Surviving breast cancer after loss of a loved one
It touches someone every single day. One in eight women will be diagnosed in their lifetime. Statistics show that 60-70% of people with this disease have no connection to known risk factors at all while others with known risk factors will never develop the disease. It is breast cancer.
With all of the negatives associated with breast cancer, it’s very heartening to hear a survivor’s story. Lisa Tate, who describes herself as “just a vessel being used by God,” is a breast cancer survivor.
After relocating and finding a new doctor, Lisa scheduled her annual physical exam. While preparing for her appointment, just a few days after her 50th birthday in October 2016, Lisa performed her very first self breast examination and found a lump in her left breast. During her appointment, her doctor ordered an ultrasound and mammogram and ultimately performed a biopsy on the lump and a lymph node. She waited two weeks before pathology confirmed her fears, stage 2 cancer.
According to National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., you have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer if you have a family history of breast cancer. Although Lisa was not connected to this risk factor, she still developed breast cancer.
This was very devastating for Lisa, especially after just experiencing the loss of a loved one, her husband of only two months, just four years prior. To help her with her grief, Lisa started the Andre Tate Foundation, a Christian-based Non-Profit organization concerned with civic-minded men and women with desires to create a climate of encouragement and a positive environment for our youth.
Lisa has an inkling that her cancer was triggered by several factors after her husband’s death including devastation and stress, consistent poor diet, lack of physical activity, and plainly not taking care of herself, along with other environmental risk factors.
Very dissatisfied with her care, distraught, and still grieving the sudden loss of her husband, she called Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California for help. Here she was assigned a very knowledgeable and passionate oncologist who ordered more tests for follow-up: Magnetic Resonance Imagery (MRI), bone, brain, and chest/pelvic/abdomen scans. With these tests, Lisa learned that not only was she at stage 2 breast cancer, but the tumor in her breast was 1.6 centimeters in size and she probably had cancer for about a year already. But, the most troubling was that she was also positive for Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC), a unique form of cancer that tends to be more aggressive than some other breast cancers.
Troubling, also, because her first diagnosis did not uncover this and she did not fit in the risk category of having this disease. According to Susan G. Komen Facts for Life Triple Negative Breast Cancer, anyone can get TNBC, but these tumors seem to occur more often in younger women, African-American women, and women who have BRCA1 gene mutation. They may also be more common among Hispanic women compared to white women. Treatments for TNBC and hormone driven cancer are different. TNBC can’t be treated with hormone therapies or anti-HER2 therapies and is usually treated with surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
After Thanksgiving, just a month after her diagnosis, Lisa began her treatment – 16 weeks of chemotherapy. There were so many fears she had. Could she get through this? Would the chemo kill the cancer? What would life be like afterward? After the first round of chemo, some of her fears were subsided. Lisa stated, “I could hardly feel my lump!” However, there were many side affects with the chemotherapy that she experienced such as bone pain, mouth sores in her throat, nose bleeds, coughing up blood, leg and head sores, weight gain, fatigue, and neuropathy. Lisa was able to save her hair by using cold caps and a scalp cooling system during her chemotherapy treatments.
In April, Lisa learned that she had a pathologic complete response to chemotherapy and was ready for breast cancer surgery. Even though the cancer was in her left breast, Lisa chose to have a double mastectomy for precautionary measures. Lisa has also changed many things in her life, everything she puts in, on, and around her body. For instance, she changed everything to organic, increased her water intake, eats a lot of vegetables, takes vitamin D, vitamin E, and Omega 3s, drinks apple cider vinegar and turmeric, avoids refined sugar and artificial sweeteners, and only uses stainless steel pots and pans. She also juices often.
Lisa faced several obstacles during her journey. She couldn’t be around a lot of people, so family functions were put on hold. She didn’t feel well often and she was always exhausted. She did, however, have her faith in God, support group, nutritionist, therapist, geneticist doctor, services from Michelle’s Place Breast Cancer Resource Center and The Caring Bridge to help get her through.
An advocate now to stress the importance of self breast exams for both men and women, Lisa wants to share with others to be diligent with your mammograms, stay off the internet if diagnosed (to avoid getting overwhelmed), keep a positive mind, and always remember your dark days along with three things, every day, that you are grateful for.