The Kern Lodge Staff: Interview with a Survivor
As most of you know October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. In recognition of this month, The Kern Lodge (TKL) decided to interview one of its own staff who just so happens to be a survivor. Tanya Herring (31) is currently employed at TKL.
“I was pregnant when I found out and my son was born on October 2011 but it wasn’t a normal pregnancy. There are certain things that are supposed to happen to a woman, I was waking up with blood in my shirt, things like that,” said Herring. Her blood count was also low. Herring’s family definitely has a history of cancer. Her mother and grandmother both had throat cancer and all five of her sisters were diagnosed with skin cancer, not to mention, her two aunts were also diagnosed with colon cancer.
She first discovered that she had cancer in November of 2011 during a pregnancy. When asked what her first reaction was Herring said, “I didn’t believe them. I just thought that they were messing with me.” Herring received 21 treatments of radiation and 16 chemo treatments within an 11-month period.
Often times family and friends can play a tremendous role in aiding
patients in their fight against cancer. Herring’s mother played a huge role in her fight with cancer. “She actually had my kids the whole time. She drove me to and from and she pretty much lived with me the whole time,” said Herring.
According to Herring she was not actually going to receive treatments altogether. Her original plan was to let it play out and hope for the best. “My son, he was seven at the time and he actually started to plan my funeral. He had my mom take him to buy these little necklaces that had vials to hold my ashes for each of the kids,” said Herring. After seeing her son go through all of this Herring changed her mind and finally decided to receive treatment and to fight.
Cancer treatment can affect a person’s skin, hair, and nails. Often, skin problems from cancer treatment are not severe, but they can be uncomfortable and noticeable. Some people may struggle with the visible changes or symptoms caused by a skin condition. Unfortunately, Herring experienced all of these side effects from the treatments. She had lost a majority of her hair, along with all of her finger and toenails. Other side effects included radiation sores all over her body including the inside of her mouth and throat. She was constantly sick from the radiation.
Having cancer is often one of the most stressful experiences in a person’s life. However, support groups help many people cope with the emotional aspects of cancer by providing a safe place to share their feelings and challenges. They also allow people to learn from others facing similar situations. Herring had one such support group through Facebook. “It helped me a lot during the five years that I was on medication afterward because I had a lot of questions that I didn’t ask during the treatments. These girls talking to me about their stuff, it was easier to ask them questions and get their answers because they had experienced it also,” said Herring.
Even after all of the treatments and medication are over, it’s still not over. It can always come back. It can happen a year after you finish treatment for breast cancer, or five, 10, even 20 years later. You find another lump, or a shadow appears on one of the mammograms you’re having much more often now. When asked if she was living her life differently, “well, it could always come back. I still expect it to come back. Even if it doesn’t I’m still expecting it. Every time we go to the doctor we all expect something or they expect something because it could always come back,” said Herring.
Herring’s advice for anyone who just found out that they were diagnosed with breast cancer was sweet, simple and straightforward, “just fight, just fight,” said Herring.
Herring only told her mother throughout the whole process, “it was just us, I didn’t tell anyone else until I was almost completely done. When I had started my medication and they told me that it was gone, like gone. I just had to stay on medication for five years,” said Herring. That’s when Herring began informing family, “just close family, not everybody,” said Herring.
If her cancer resurfaced Herring stated that she would not receive treatments a second time. “No, I wouldn’t. I would just let it run its course this time. I couldn’t do it again,” said Herring.
The fight against breast cancer is very serious and can even be life-threatening. when asked if there was ever a time that Herring might have lost she simply replied, “yeah a few times.” When asked what she wanted to hear from family and friends, “just me knowing that they had my kids just in case anything happened,” said Herring who found the strength to fight through her son.
Editors note: TKL applauds Tanya Herring and all fighters and survivors of all cancer and finds their uncanny will to fight and survive as a source of inspiration and we hope that you do too.
“You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.”
-Stuart Scott (July 19, 1965 – January 4, 2015)