Tiah Tomlin is co-founder of My Style Matters, a company that produces unique, stylish events to raise awareness and funding for worthwhile causes, while encouraging healthy lifestyles. This is her story:
It started out as an amazing summer in 2015, everything in my life was going great…or so I thought. I was looking forward to traveling the world, hanging out with friends at summer concerts and just enjoying life.
I’d just returned after a few days in Montego Bay with awesome friends. We ate well, laughed until our sides hurt, soaked up the sun, partied, and relaxed. But it was time to get back to the grind. My business partner and I had just announced our partnership with the Veterans Empowerment Organization and the American Cancer Society to raise awareness for Prostate cancer and collect suits for veterans via our fun run event called the “5K Suit Run™.” We had work to do. It was time to help save some lives; but little did I know then that one of them would be my own.
Cancer startled me on a normal workday. I rushed home from the gym to jump in the shower and get ready to attend an event. I was very good about doing breast self-exams regularly in the shower, and just expected to feel the same thing that I felt just a week ago - nothing. But something was different. It stopped me in my tracks. I lost my breath for a moment. Quickly moving my fingers across my breast, I felt something hard. At first, I thought that I must be mistaken; so I did it again. It was still there. My heart sank. I just knew it was not good.
A few days later, after several tests, my doctor called me. As she began to talk, all I heard was CARCINOMA. I broke. All I could think of was “Why me? Why now? Why my family? How am I going to tell my family? What about the My Styles Matters team and the 5K Suit Run? This can't be happening. What about my job: I can’t afford to lose it! Where did I miss the mark?”
She must have sensed my lost feeling, because she said. "let's talk tomorrow." I hung up the phone and cried. As I wept, I could hear God saying to me “You can either sit there and wallow in your grief or you can get up and fight. Now, get up!”
God has always been there for my family. My father had a major stroke in 2011 and had a miraculous recovery. My brother was diagnosed with stage 4 testicular cancer at 32, also in 2011, and is still living and is cancer free, despite having been given only six months to live.
I hoped God would do the same for me. Sobbing, I began to speak to my spirit. "Get up! Get up!" I went from crying and hurting to praising and worshiping...."Yet will I trust You Lord! Yet will I trust You!"
It was a challenge for my family in Virginia, since I live in Atlanta, but we pulled together and made it work. It's not about the storm, but how you weather the storm. My mother came down to be my caregiver while my siblings stepped in to care for my father.
During my fight with cancer, I experienced many challenges. Facing every treatment was very frustrating. I would expend what felt like enormous amounts of energy, fighting to feel better, only to get knocked back down. It was quite disappointing. One time, they wanted to hospitalize me; another time, I couldn’t walk due to the pain. There were times that I wanted to give up and be done with treatment, but that was not an option. I learned quickly during this journey that over half of the battle was in my mind. If I remained positive, laughed a lot and kept my faith, no matter what I felt, saw, read or heard, I could beat this beast. And after 8 rounds of chemo, surgery, 33 rounds of radiation and several doses of LOVE from family and friends, I did just that. I BEAT CAN'T-cer!
After being diagnosed with can’t-cer and losing 9 friends (ages 25-45) to this disease while on the journey, it has caused me to re-prioritize what truly matters in life - faith, love, family, friends and my community. And although this was the hardest thing I ever had to face in my life, I believe that this journey is not just for me, alone. I believe that I need to tell my story, to give HOPE to others and inspire someone to take control of their health.
Since the diagnosis, I’ve been busy helping other men and women fight. I started a Facebook group called My Breast Years Ahead - Atlanta, helping women who have been affected by any type of cancer in the Atlanta area, connect and share their journey. In 2016, I participated in the Cancer Moonshot Summit and became one of the chapter leaders for HealingStrong™. I also joined the Check It Out! Program to help educate young high school girls (juniors and seniors) about breast health. Recently, I was chosen to be a Young Program Advocate for Living Beyond Breast Cancer as well as to co-facilitator of Sisters By Choice – 40 & Under Support group. In addition, I have partnered with I Will Survive, Inc., to provide unique care packages to newly diagnosed cancer patients in the Atlanta area and I sit on an advisory board at Northside Hospital whose goal is to bring back the young survivors’ support group. I am dedicated to fight against cancer by speaking out about prevention and increasing awareness.
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