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Refocused and Renewed

Mother and business owner becomes advocate for cancer screenings

Tonja McMillian didn’t have time for inconveniences.

As a 37-year-old mother to a growing 3-year-old and owner of a popular hair salon, she was busy all hours of the day. Her priorities were in line and her days were planned, but everything changed when she felt a lump in her left breast.

“I was doing a self-exam at home when I felt something strange,” said McMillian. “Part of me was concerned while the other part of me felt like the lump was insignificant because of its size. I didn’t feel as if I had time to worry about it with my busy life. I had my son and salon to worry about.”

“I didn’t feel as if I had time to worry about it with my busy life. I had my son and salon to worry about.”

A few days after feeling the lump, she began discussing her situation with her customers, seeking whatever advice they could provide. Many of them recommended seeing a doctor, but she worried she would never find the right time to go because of her hectic schedule. One of her clients recommended taking advantage of a free cancer screening offered by Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center and Woman’s Hospital. For the next few days, she recalls wrestling with the idea of going to the screening.

“I just remember thinking, ‘If I don’t go now, I don’t think I ever will,’” said McMillian.

Her decision to go to the event was one that changed her life forever. Within a week, she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer and was quickly prepped with a treatment plan including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

“The first thing I remember thinking when I got the diagnosis was how my son, Riley, was going to react,” said McMillian. “I didn’t want to worry him with my diagnosis, so I had to learn how to break the news to him in a way he would understand without scarring him.”

McMillian also focused her attention on becoming an advocate for early detection and prevention efforts within the community. She supported community cancer screenings, was the Honorary Chair for Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center’s Fest for Life event and encouraged clients, friends and family to focus on their health. Having been cancer free for over a year, McMillian still thinks back to the times she almost didn’t go to the cancer screening and what her life would be like today if she didn’t go.

“It’s crazy to think I almost didn’t go to that initial cancer screening,” said McMillian. “Something will always come up or be added to the calendar, but nothing should be more important than the health and well-being of you and your loved ones. Begin self-examinations and know what feels normal. If something feels wrong, consult a doctor. Prioritizing your health isn’t an inconvenience, it’s what can save your life.”

Click here to learn more about the Cancer Center’s Prevention on the Go program and how you can take the first steps to ensure a healthy future.

STRAIGHT TO THE POINT

Click here to learn more about the Cancer Center’s Prevention on the Go program and how you can take the first steps to ensure a healthy future and visit breastandgyncancer.org to learn more about the Breast & GYN Cancer Pavilion

  • After completing a self-exam at home, Tonja McMillian decided to take advantage of a free cancer screening organized by Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center.
  • McMillian was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer and dealt with the effects of being a mother and business owner while completing treatment.
  • Today, McMillian is an advocate for early detection within her community.