When 37-year-old, Tonja McMillan was diagnosed with breast cancer, one of her main concerns was how she would explain it to her 3-year-old-son, Riley.
“I didn’t want Riley to hear the word ‘cancer’ and be scared for me,” Tonja said. “I would explain to him that I was sick and may look a little different in the coming months.”
During a self-examination, Tonja detected a lump, but put off going to the doctor because of her busy schedule. Between taking care of Riley and managing her hair salon, she couldn’t find the time. Luckily, one of Tonja’s clients told her about the free cancer screenings offered on weekends and after business hours by the Cancer Center. Tonja knew if she didn’t go then, she never would.
Following the screening, cancer was detected in Tonja’s left breast. Within weeks she began chemotherapy followed by surgery and radiation treatments.
Tonja is now a survivor and an advocate for early detection. “No one knows your ‘normal’ like you,” said Tonja.
“I urge everyone to do self-examinations and take note of any changes whatsoever, if something doesn’t feel right or look right to you then go get screened; be an advocate for yourself.”
As the Honorary Chairperson for Fest for Life 2018, Tonja is just one example of the power of early detection and the importance of being screened if you have the slightest feeling that something isn’t right.
The Cancer Center’s upcoming Fest for Life is a free health event that includes cancer and other health screenings and educational programs, food, children’s activities and entertainment for the entire family. Free cancer screenings include colorectal, breast, prostate, skin and oral cavity. All screenings are available to those who have not been screened in the past 12 months. Appointments are required for breast cancer screenings only. This year’s event will be held Saturday, April 14 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Bon Carrè Business Center, 7359 Florida Blvd.
To make a breast screening appointment, please call (225) 215-1234 or (888) 616-4687. For additional information about this event, please visit marybirdlake.org/festforlife.