Meet Tina; Diagnosed at 37

By Tina Conrad


My introduction to breast cancer started right around 9/11. I was 25, working in corporate America and watched as my whole world seemed to crumble around me. My mom called me the end of that month to tell me that she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 46. That call destroyed the world inside of me. I knew I had to be strong for my mom, hold it together for her. I was a cheerleader to my mom, sending flower and cheer, attending as much as possible. I always wanted my mom to know that she was beautiful, she was strong and she was the best mom ever. I wanted my mom to have hope. At the end of her treatments, we celebrated with a good-bye cancer party with close friends and family. It felt like the end of the story.

Unfortunately, the story was not finished. My mom had a recurrence three years later, learned she was TNBC and received different treatments this time. She lost her hair again and it was really difficult to find the hope. I was angry. I was so mad at God for doing this to our family, not once but twice. I couldn’t understand why this was happening. Years passed and breast cancer grew more distant in the rear view mirror, but we didn’t throw any parties this time. We slowly let out our breath and tiptoed into the future.

Ten years later, I noticed a change in my breast. I was 37. I was recently promoted, recently married and very very busy in the whirlwind of life. My mom had always found a lump. But, I saw the center of my breast pulling in. I told myself it was old age. Even with my mom’s diagnosis, and 2 baseline mammos, I did everything to tell myself I was ok. I felt healthy, I was a runner, but there was that little voice quietly nudging me to get it checked out.

I’m sure you all know the drill, something seems off, so a talk with a doctor that leads to a mammogram, that leads to another mammogram, which leads to an ultrasound, which leads to a biopsy, and ultimately the call that stops you in your tracks. YOU HAVE CANCER! Actually, I woke up from my biopsy a few days prior, with the anesthesia slowly wearing off to my doctor telling me to get my mom’s records. My surgeon knew something didn’t look right. The biopsy was more like a lumpectomy and it was suspicious.

My mom handled my diagnosis the hardest. My mom was a 7 ½ hour car drive away at this point in my life and it was not easy to be that far away. My mom felt like it was her fault. My mom understood exactly what I was feeling and going through. From my first visit to the oncology office with all the zombie patients, I ran to my car and called my mom sobbing. To my first chemo cocktail of the all knowing Red Devil that made me throw up hours after chemo, just like my mom had experienced. Our parallel journeys.

I knew I had a unique experience that I wanted to share. I had always had my mom, and my mom had always had me as a cheerleader, friend and advocate for the journey, but how were women out there finding out they had breast cancer going through this alone? I wanted to share my story and encourage others to share their stories to help make the world a little brighter and inspire hope. My podcast DJ Breast Cancer was my passion project, spurred into action after I found out a dear friend and support group friend, Sandy Clausen, had died from a metastatic recurrence. It was not enough to just have this idea, I had to put it into action!

My mom is now my biggest cheerleader. She carries my business cards for my podcast in her pocket and hands them out to anyone wearing pink, talking about breast cancer at the insurance agency, or her softball teammates in Florida. We are blessed, and we know that we are lucky. Every birthday is truly a celebration of being here another year.

Just like You

I am a version of you

Through and through

You are beautiful, broken

I can feel your words unspoken

I called you crying

No words, afraid of dying

You listened and told me you knew

Exactly what I’m going through

You can be my light

In the darkness shining bright

And I will be there

When you have no hair

This may be our cross

But it’s not our loss

You are my cheerleader

And I will be yours

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