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Me and the Girls: Tammy Joyner


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.

"I wouldn't suggest that everybody go through something like that. But when you're faced with the idea of your own mortality... it helps you really cut through the crap and get to the meat of what you're here for."

Keeping busy, preparing herself for the days when chemo was likely to make her tired, and talking with other women who'd been through breast cancer also helped. "Knowing what to expect is very helpful. It helps take some of the edge and uncertainty away."

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Reviewed on September 18, 2009

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