Patient Story

Atlanta woman turns Triple Negative breast cancer diagnosis into patient advocacy movement

Tiah Tomlin

Tiah was only 38 years old, nearly 10 years under the recommended age for a mammogram, when she felt a lump in her breast. Out of an abundance of caution, she thought it best to get it checked out. Echoing Tiah’s concerns, her doctor referred her to Northside Hospital for an ultrasound, mammogram and biopsy. And a few days later, doctors confirmed Tiah’s worst fear – she had breast cancer.

It threw me into a tailspin,” she said. “I knew it was cancer when I felt the lump, but I believed in my faith in God and tried to remain positive throughout the entire process.”

Following her diagnosis, Tiah set a treatment plan with oncologists Dr. Kelly May and Dr. Nancy Wiggers from Northside Hospital Cancer Institute.

After additional testing, Dr. May discovered Tiah had Triple-Negative breast cancer: A rare type of breast cancer that does not respond to hormonal therapy medicines nor medicines that target HER2 protein receptors often involved in other types of breast cancer.

Tiah discussed her options with Dr. May and Dr. Wiggers, and together they built an aggressive treatment plan. One year after receiving her diagnosis, following eight rounds of chemotherapy, a lumpectomy with reconstruction and reduction and 33 rounds of radiation therapy, Tiah was declared cancer-free.

While the journey was tough, Tiah recalls wanting support from other women who were also enduring breast cancer treatment.

I didn’t find what I was looking for at support groups” Tiah said. “As a young black girl, no one there looked like me. I had questions that not many of the survivors could answer.””

Determined to connect and help women going through similar experiences, Tiah started her own support group on Facebook called ‘My Breast Years Ahead.’ Today, the group consists of nearly 350 women in the Atlanta area who share advice, refer doctors and offer support to one another.

Tiah has fully dedicated herself to the support group, helping patients advocate on behalf of themselves and offering advice on how to best approach follow-up care. Even in her downtime, Tiah attends events and conferences across the U.S. to support patient advocacy.

I enjoy giving back,” she says. “Even though it’s something I do for work, I don’t view it as work.”

*The health story shared here may portray atypical results of survival for this type of cancer, given its severity and stage. Atypical results are considered surviving a cancer that has less than a 50 percent five-year survival rate. Patients should consult an expert to discuss specific treatment plans and the possible outcomes before making medical decisions.

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