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Me and the Girls: Tammy Joyner

By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Picture of Tammy Joyner

WebMD senior writer Miranda Hitti interviewed breast cancer survivors as part of a series for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The series, called “Me & the Girls,” explores the personal stories of these women after they were diagnosed with breast cancer.

Breast Cancer: Me & the Girls

When breast cancer hits home, it's personal. WebMD shares stories and advice from women who know what breast cancer is like firsthand.

  • Zunilda Guzman, 39, had both breasts and ovaries removed after learning she had breast cancer and a high-risk gene.
  • Pamela Cerceo, 51, had both breasts removed even though she didn’t have breast cancer.
  • Diane Morgan, 71, offers advice on what friends should and shouldn't do when someone has breast cancer.
  • Jenee Bobbora, 39, chose not to have breast reconstruction after her mastectomy.
  • Tammy Joyner, 49, talks about telling her sons she had breast cancer.

Read more stories: 

 

Breast cancer survivor Tammy Joyner, 49, lives in the Atlanta area. When Joyner was 45 years old, she went to see her gynecologist after noticing some breast changes -- aches and soreness that she wasn't used to.

"I said, 'Something's just not right,'" Joyner recalls. Her doctor didn't find anything of concern, but when Joyner had the same symptoms a month later, she went back to the doctor and asked for a mammogram. Joyner had had routine screening mammograms before, but it wasn't time for her annual mammogram. She got the mammogram anyway, and then had a biopsy.

Joyner was at work when she got the news. "I was supposed to get results back on Friday," she recalls. But when she hadn't heard anything, she called on Monday and demanded to be told what was going on.

The news that she had cancer hit her hard. "It's like being slammed against a wall and then being put in a Vise-Grip," Joyner says. "I was just beside myself." She says she thought of the cancer movie, Terms of Endearment, and thought, "Oh my God, that's not the way I want to go out. I have two sons... I was in a complete daze."

Joyner had no family history of breast cancer and was surprised to learn that that's the case with most breast cancer patients. "The doctor told me 60% of new cases are people who don't have histories," she says.

Telling her sons: Joyner's sons, Adrian and Brandon, were 12 and 7 years old, respectively, at the time of her diagnosis.

Joyner remembers telling Adrian, her older son, that she had cancer. "I was still in a jangle of nerves," she said. "He looked at me and was quiet for a minute. And he said, 'You're going to get through it, Mom... you will get through it.' There was no doubt at all. That was another... milestone for me, that he said that," Joyner says.

Joyner told her younger son, Brandon, that she might lose her hair because of her treatment. "He said, 'Daddy and I will shave our heads, too,' Joyner recalls. "I told them they didn't have to."

Surgery and reconstruction: Joyner had two tumors in her right breast. The smaller of the two tumors seemed to be more aggressive, and the tumors' locations made lumpectomy not an option.

Joyner had no signs of cancer in her left breast, or anywhere else in her body. She got that news on her first day of chemotherapy to shrink the tumors in her right breast. "I was so happy, I said, 'OK, let's get this party started.' That's literally what I told [my oncologist] and he started laughing," Joyner says. "Whatever it takes, I don't care. I'm going to deal with this, I'm going to go through it. I'm going to get to the other side."

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