Tonya Echols Cole: RADIATION ONCOLOGIST FIGHTS HER OWN CANCER DIAGNOSIS


Tonya Echols Cole

Tonya Echols Cole, M.D., is a board certified radiation oncologist, a wife and a mother to four-year-old twin girls. As a doctor who treated cancer patients for almost 20 years, cancer was--and still is--her business. In 2004, at age 46, it also became her diagnosis, when she learned she had Stage II triple negative breast cancer.  She found out that she carried a hereditary gene, which required her to have a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction. Her treatment also involved 7 months of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery to have her ovaries removed.

It was not Dr. Cole’s first life challenge: she suffered a stroke at age 38; lived through a car accident that completely destroyed her large SUV; and lost her mother in 2016 to kidney disease, four years after she was also diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer.

Still, it was surviving cancer that made her appreciate how special life is and determined not just to survive, but also to thrive.  Dr. Cole shares advice and counsel on her blog, thebeautyofcancer.com. She advises staying positive during treatment, which for her means reading positive and inspirational books, quotes and scripture, but not the news.  Her mantra: “There is life after cancer. Go Live It.”

Following her own advice, she’s embarked on two new ventures. She has published two books for children, in English and Spanish, to understand their parent’s cancer. Dad’s (and Mom’s) Naughty Cancer gives families a sense of optimism and hope in fighting the battle against cancer. She has also started The Beauty of Cancer Foundation to help survivors live their best lives and stay positive. Since hair loss, disfigurement and skin discoloration can be part of the cancer journey, events will offer makeovers, exercise and health advice to make survivors look and feel good about themselves. Inner beauty will also be addressed at retreats, where survivors will go deeper into themselves, looking at issues of depression, intimacy and sexuality.  Reflecting her personal cancer journey, Dr. Cole’s third goal is to support survivors who are living with metastatic breast cancer at an annual retreat.

A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Dr. Cole earned her undergraduate degree from The John’s Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and her medical degree from the University of Cincinnati, where she completed her five-year residency in Radiation Oncology from the College of Medicine. She moved to Atlanta in 1998, and started her own practice in 2004. She is active in her community, having served on the American Red Cross minority recruitment board and Youth Vibe, Inc.; created a medical ministry at her church; and volunteered for numerous free cancer screenings, breast support groups, and health career fairs.

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