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Sunday, November 27, 2022

A Journey to Remember How One Resilient Mother Beat Breast Cancer

Tonya Kendrick-Green’s path to beat breast cancer began when she was diagnosed with the disease at just 30 years old. The 49-year-old was raised in Annapolis, Maryland but currently resides in Howard County. Bowling, spending time with her family, and traveling are some of her hobbies, but Kendrick-Green reflects on a time she could not see her kids in-person for six or seven months because of her weakened immune system and enduring chemotherapy.
“Although breast cancer mostly occurs among older women, in rare cases breast cancer does affect women under the age of 45. About 9% of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women younger than 45 years of age,” per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Kendrick-Green’s eldest child was about 11 years old. The mother also had a four and five-year-old, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. They were cared for by family while Kendrick-Green was diligently working on her health.
“My children would come to the house, and I would talk to them through the window,” Kendrick-Green recalled.
Kendrick-Green’s discovery of her breast cancer began because she went to the doctor to get an annual physical.
“When I did my breast exam, my doctor thought she felt something but said, ‘You know what, I’m pretty sure it was nothing but because your mom was just diagnosed with breast cancer, let me just make sure that you’re good,’” Kendrick-Green said. “The very next day, I was at work when I was called and told that it was positive for breast cancer.”
When Kendrick-Green first had a mammogram, the doctor pursued getting a biopsy, to determine if her patient’s finding of concern was fatty scar tissue from breast reduction surgery.
Kendrick-Green was scared and worried about her mother, Wanda Parker. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer first although it does not run in their family, outside of the pair. Kendrick-Green said that after Parker’s diagnosis, she knew what to expect with her own, although hers was more aggressive than her mother’s. Parker had been diagnosed with breast cancer in October of 2003. Kendrick-Green was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer the following April.
“When my mother was finishing her last chemo treatment, I was starting my first one,” Kendrick-Green said. “My support system was everything. My mom did what she could do. It was hard for her because she just finished going through it for herself so she couldn’t do too much because her immune system wasn’t up to par yet.”
Kendrick-Green explained that Parker kept her eldest daughter while other family members cared for the other children. Their mother needed chemotherapy and radiation. Kendrick-Green struggled to move from the couch the next day after six months of chemotherapy treatments. Outside of trekking to appointments, Kendrick-Green was mostly housebound. Radiation treatment lasted two or three months, three days a week.
Although Kendrick-Green had limited interaction with her children, they helped her to push through her ordeal to beat cancer.

Tonya Kendrick-Green survived stage 1 breast cancer.
Photos courtesy of Tonya Kendrick-Green


“I didn’t think that I had the fight in me anymore to continue to go through this,” Kendrick-Green said, mentioning that she felt depressed. “There were times I wanted to give up.”
The final step in Kendrick-Green’s breast cancer survival journey was taking tamoxifen (a prescription drug used to treat breast cancer) in pill form for five to seven years to ensure that the cancer was completely gone and would not return. The resilient breast cancer survivor learned how strong she was and that no matter what she was going through, she could get through it.
Kendrick-Green offers insight to women who are either afraid of getting mammograms or who put it off.
“Don’t ever do it if you love yourself,” she said. “You could have one little spot on your breast today, and in six months, it could be in stage four. So, had I not got checked out, I may not be here today.”
For those who are either going through it or about to start a journey of treatment, the vocal breast cancer survivor stressed the importance of remaining faithful, praying, never giving up, and leaning on a support system.
“The last thing you want to do is go through it alone,” Kendrick-Green said. “One thing my doctor told me was, ‘Don’t you allow the cancer to take over, you take over the cancer.’ That stuck in my head the whole entire time I was going through my seven surgeries, chemo, and radiation.”

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