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Cancer Survivor Story - Diane Tate

It was her daughter’s birthday. She was at WAFB discussing one of her many community interests. The doctor called, leading with “Alright…”. It was October 11, a day forever cemented in Diane Tate’s memory. It was cancer.

Diane has fibrocystic breast tissue and had been monitoring two lumps in her right breast for years by getting a mammogram every six months. Fibrocystic breast tissue is a common condition that causes denser breast tissue and possibly lumps and bumps that are common to the feel of the breasts.

Everything had checked out ok until her October 2021 mammogram and ultrasound, when they found another smaller lump behind the others. She was referred to Dr. Everett Bonner, a surgical breast oncologist, for a biopsy. It was stage 1 breast cancer.

The unknown of potential treatments is scary, and for Diane there was a unique twist. Her first thought was about chemotherapy and hair loss uncovering some gnarly scars from a major brain surgery in 2000. But after a lumpectomy, her care team determined she needed 16 weeks of radiation, not chemo. She went three times a week and was finished in time to go to Washington Mardi Gras in February 2022.

She kept herself busy planning events and credits a “mind over matter” approach for getting through the rigorous 3-times a week radiation schedule. But mostly, she credits the radiation team at BRG’s Pennington Cancer Center for their support.

When Diane came to her first appointment, she saw the parking spots reserved for cancer patients. “That’s me,” she remembers thinking, as it all became very real. Then, inside, as she laid on the table for her first dose of radiation, she was scared. The team explained everything that would happen ahead of time to make her comfortable.

“They held my hand, reassuring me before the treatment started,” she says. “It may seem like something little, but it eased my mind in those vulnerable moments. “Your life is in their hands, and when you trust them, they become your family.”

The radiation team had made a chart with a finish line, kicking off the celebration at the end of treatment. That night, her family had planned a special dinner complete with pink roses and pink jewelry. Then again on October 11, 2022, she reached a big milestone - one year cancer free. And along with her daughter’s birthday, the Tates plan to keep celebrating each year on that day.

Diane only told a very small circle about her diagnosis and treatment at the time, but now, she’s found that the more you talk about it, the more you realize that everyone has been touched by cancer. And that’s when you really get that extra support.

Though she stayed positive and didn’t allow herself to go to “that place” during treatment, Diane says now when she takes a moment to pause, it hits her that it absolutely could’ve gone another way, and she is grateful.

“I was doing everything I was supposed to do, and cancer still happened, but at the end of the day, a mammogram is going to be what’s going to save you.”

Click here to learn more about cancer care at Baton Rouge General Pennington Cancer Center.