Me and the Girls: Tammy Joyner
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."
After chemotherapy came surgery to remove her right breast.
Her doctors didn't find her original tumors in her breast. Her plastic surgeon called that a "miracle." Joyner says the cancer had shrunk to nothing.... I had a lot of people praying, so I know who was in charge of this."
During that same operation, the plastic surgeon took tissue from Joyner's belly to replace her right breast. That operation is more complex and has a longer recovery than getting implants for reconstruction. But Joyner didn't want implants. "I didn't want any foreign object in there," she says.
Letting go: Joyner says she would advise newly diagnosed patients to "get yourself in a mindset that will enable you to find some peace, whatever your diagnosis, even if you're in the last stages."
For her, that meant practicing the mantra, "Let go and let God" with things she didn't have the energy or strength to deal with. And she says that in a "weird" way, cancer was "one of the most life-changing gifts I've received."
She says she became calmer and worried less. Before cancer, she says, "I would tend to be a worrywart and just worry about every little thing." But cancer "really clarifies what's important for you," Joyner says.