Tanya Tyler holds many titles, as a wife, mother, twin, sister, minister, author, songwriter and often the life of the party. After finding strength in unimaginable hardship – the loss of an infant child – nine years earlier, she never thought a small lump on her left breast would be yet another battle to face.
After identifying the initial lump under her right underarm in May 2019, her primary doctor diagnosed it as a pimple. It even disappeared after a few weeks. Then she followed up with another call into her doctor for a small lump on her right breast, but that went away quickly. Panicking was over, but two months later, she noticed another small lump on her left breast that did not go away. Her primary physician quickly scheduled an ultrasound and mammogram, along with an appointment to see a breast surgeon. Her results revealed breast cancer, invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC).
“While waiting on the results, I did not feel stressed because I knew that stressing wouldn’t change anything. I took deep breaths and hoped everything would be fine,” said Tanya.
Her husband, Karl, was right by her side that day, and in more shock than she was. The couple had grown strong together in coping with the loss of their infant daughter, but Tanya was also familiar with the battle against breast cancer through her twin sister’s experience.
One year prior in August 2018, Tanya’s twin sister Toynettia was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I remember encouraging and supporting my sister through positive energy and laughter,” said Tanya.
Though seemingly linked, their family did not have a history of breast cancer. Testing also revealed that the twins had two different types of cancer that were not genetically connected. After her diagnosis, Tanya took every precaution possible to protect herself and the future health of her own 15-year-old daughter.
“I hit the ground running and aggressively started treatment to fight the cancer,” said Tanya.
On September 10, 2019, she started TCHP chemotherapy once every three weeks for six treatments. She completed treatment on December 23, 2019 and started a one-year targeted therapy treatment specifically focusing on her HER2 cells. She also had her own genetic tests done and will receive the results later this spring.
During the months of treatment, Tanya received an outpouring of support from her community in the form of food and prayers for a speedy recovery. She was blown away by the generosity of others. The community’s involvement proved to her that although people may not frequent your day-to-day life, they are available and supportive during your time of need.
Tanya visited Northeast Georgia Diagnostic Clinic, a Northside network provider, in Braselton and saw Dr. Christina Saurel for treatment. All of her doctors, including Northside breast surgeon, Dr. Ryland Gore of North Atlanta Breast Care, and breast reconstructive surgeon Dr. Aisha Baron, shared her attitude of “we can beat this,” which made Tanya feel comfortable and positive during this tough situation. On January 28, 2020 Tanya got a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction (DIEP flap) which drew from her abdominal tissue.
After the surgery, doctors told her the cancer was caught early enough so there were no signs of it spreading and her lymph nodes were clear.
“The staff exceeded my expectations and cared for me as if I were family,” said Tanya. “Everyone is so amazing at Northside’s Northeast Georgia Diagnostic Clinic in Braselton, greeting you with smiling faces and warm hugs each visit. I love them dearly and I have all of them on my Christmas list.”
After her two-week checkup on Feb. 11, 2020, Dr. Gore confirmed the cancer had still not spread, and today Tanya is cancer free. She spends time with her newest grandbaby and family while also continuing to share her story with others in hopes that she can inspire someone else to keep moving forward.
“You will have your moments to cry and be sad, but then you find ways to laugh, because positivity and happiness is an important part of your treatment and healing,” Tanya said. “And never forget how strong you are. Anyone who is going through this is strong, whether you believe it or not – have faith.”
*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.