How building strength helped one teacher fight breast cancer
Tameka Pearson experienced the best and the worst of women’s health in a decade. When she overcame her first health challenges, a new breast cancer diagnosis tested her again. As Tameka conquered cancer with the support of her family and her Wellstar cancer care team, she only grew fiercer in her dedication to self care.
Overcoming health challenges
Look back a decade and you’ll see Tameka, a mom of three, teaching middle school students. She started out as a special education teacher, then became an English and language arts teacher. She said, “I truly loved trying to figure out how to help the students learn the curriculum in a different way and to help them cope with their disabilities.”
She was also coping with her own issues at the same time—fibroids, heavy bleeding and pain. After five years, she had a hysterectomy and went through menopause at 36 years old. It took a year to recover, and she gained 60 pounds, high blood pressure, anxiety and depression.
“The heaviest I could lift was my clothes basket,” she remembered. “When I got clearance to exercise, I changed my eating habits, my mindset and my life for the better.”
A new focus on building strength shaped her into a new woman—inside and out. She rose at 4 AM daily, lifted weights, taught students and returned home for time with her family.
A second diagnosis
In peak physical condition at 43 years, Tameka scheduled her routine annual mammogram. She got called back for a second mammogram due to dense breast tissue.
“Getting a call back after a screening mammogram means that the doctor wants to look at something more closely,” said Diane Harris, RN, a certified oncology nurse navigator at Wellstar Douglas Medical Center. “It does not mean you have cancer, but if you do, finding it earlier could save your life.”
But for Tameka, further imaging led to more tests and finally, a needle-guided biopsy. Two days later, she got a call confirming she had triple negative breast cancer. She said, “I felt like this little bump can pretty much dictate the rest of my life. When I heard the term ‘breast cancer,’ my world stopped. I cried for about two weeks straight.”