I used to wear many hats, now I wear many scarves. My name is Cheryl Tyrone, I am a daughter, mother, wife, business woman and, now added to my list, breast cancer survivor. As the wife of plastic surgeon John W. Tyrone, breasts are our livelihood, but our patients aren’t sick. We modify and beautify our patients’ breasts to give them a physical expression of their inner beauty. So, how can something that we believe to be so beautiful become something you fear, if even for a moment?
I was diagnosed with breast cancer April 21, 2017. After years of routine mammograms, breast self-examinations and maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle, I didn’t think cancer would ever happen to me or my loved ones. Until, the second my doctor said, “You have breast cancer.” That’s when my life changed.
After those four words were spoken, I no longer heard anything the doctor was mentioning … the referrals to oncologists, general surgeons, reconstructive surgeons, hormone therapy options … I didn’t hear any of this, all that replayed in my mind was “You have breast cancer.”
The questions started in my head. How did this happen? Will I be ok? How is this going to change my life? Will I have a life?
Then the waiting game began. Waiting for doctor’s appointments, waiting on pathology results, waiting on answers. The time is overwhelming, and it’s excruciating. It was also my defining moment.
I cleared my head of chaos, and I made a choice and commitment to myself, to my beautiful children and my husband, not to let this diagnosis define me. I would not be a victim. I would use this to make me stronger. I used the love of the precious people in my life to silence the fear of all the unknowns and step up to the challenge of this new role.
My journey began six months prior to my diagnosis, at my annual mammogram. I started mammogram screening at the age of 40 and have been diligent about going every year since. My radiologist, initially told me everything was fine and she would see me in a year. That afternoon she called me at work and asked me to come back, upon further review of my films, she had noticed a slight change.
After an ultrasound, she decided an MRI would be in order. I went for the MRI, which showed a spot of concern, so an MRI guided biopsy was scheduled.
At the appointment, the area of concern wasn’t found so I was told come back in six months to be safe, but that it was probably hormone changes. Fast forward six months. I almost didn’t go. I felt we were being overly cautious, but a little voice in my head (my husband’s) told me — just go. So, off I went to my MRI, blissfully unaware the tumor inside me had been growing.
Early detection is key to survival. Had we not caught it as quickly as we had, the cancer would have continued to grow and invade my body. As it was, the cancer was invasive and, fortunately, it had not yet spread to any lymph nodes. It was removed by surgery, but further treatment was still necessary.
While this is just the beginning of my journey. I’ve since made it my mission to share my story and encourage women to have their annual mammograms. At John W. Tyrone Plastic Surgery, we encounter many women who have put it off. One of my husband’s requirements prior to any breast surgery is to have a recent mammogram. There’s no doubt mammograms help save lives. Many patients have found themselves in similar positions as I have due to breast exams and our pre-surgery requirement.
* During breast cancer awareness month, help me spread the word. I invite you to follow my story at www.drtyrone.com.
If my experience with cancer brings even one person with a cancer diagnosis hope or encourages women to get their annual mammogram, my story is worth sharing. I encourage you to use your voice and be strong. You never know who you are inspiring.