Tanja’s Story

Tanja – (Photo Credit: Natasha du Preez)

My name is Tanja, and I am a cancer survivor!  

My cancer journey started 7 years ago when I was diagnosed with early breast cancer on my 35th birthday. I also lost my sister to breast cancer at the young age of 45 years old. I have a strong history of breast cancer in my family and from a young age I had to undergo regular check-ups.

However, in my wildest dreams have I ever thought it would happen to me. How can it be me? I was always pro-active and I made sure that I was doing the right things. In life, you are given all sorts of challenges that you can’t control but you can control your attitude – and I chose to fight!

All I knew I had to do, was to beat this terrible disease not only for myself but for my family. With the help of my GP and my “Rockstar team” – Dr Peter Willsher, Professor Arlene Chan and my Specialist plastic surgeon we had a plan to kick this cancer to the curb.

I went through an extensive treatment program, over a period of 6-12 months. I had a bilateral mastectomy, axillary clearance and breast reconstruction, followed by chemotherapy every 21 days and 5 weeks of radiation. I also had the opportunity to undergo gene testing and it was confirmed that I have the BRCA-2 gene. My family was also tested, and I was the only one who carried the gene.

To be honest I wasn’t too worried about my breasts, I was more devastated in losing my hair! However, I had to adjust my attitude and I said to myself; “You have this one opportunity to rock a Sinead O’Connor look once in your life”, and this was my attitude throughout my recovery process.

There were dark times, fun occasions and heartfelt moments and it was important that I was mentally strong and leaning on family and friends for support.

My mantra throughout my cancer journey and to this day is; “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have” – Bob Marley

Sometimes we are only focusing on the physical recovery and forget to focus on our own mental health. I struggled and I’m still struggling to overcome my fear of recurrence. Facing the challenges is very real and with the help of professionals, I am steadily working on getting stronger and understanding my circumstances.

My advice is to have regular checks from an early age – both women and men. Always make sure you do the triple check – check yourself, if you are not sure or have any concern seek medical assistance like a GP and if needed get an ultrasound or mammogram.

Make sure to take care of your mental health by joining a support group, talk and share your experience and seek professional help if you feel overwhelmed.

Every day is a blessing, and I am so grateful to have my health!

Tanja – Patient

Donations allow us to continue to conduct research into the causes of breast cancer and how to best prevent and treat it.

Thank you!