, Salem, MA

Fighting breast cancer

October 16, 2012

From the mouths of survivors

Meet Tara Mullen

Tara Mullen, 38, is a married mom of two daughters, ages 8 and 5. She was diagnosed at age 35 for “ductal carcinoma in situ” after her doctors found a cyst in her breast. Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a noninvasive breast cancer with abnormal cells contained in the milk ducts. “In situ” means “in place” because the cells have not left the milk ducts to invade nearby breast tissue.

“Due to my family history of breast cancer, they were keeping an eye on it and I was getting an ultrasound every six months,” she says.

A few months later, the fluid-filled cyst turned into a solid mass. “I didn’t hear anything after the doctor told me that I had breast cancer,” Mullen says.

The doctors performed a lumpectomy, and a few months later, more cysts were found. “They weren’t in the lymph nodes, thankfully, but I opted for a double mastectomy in May 2012,” she says.

Mullen went through radiation treatment and a chemotherapy shot in her stomach every three months. “I never had a choice to stop going and never had time to really think about it,” Mullen says. “I broke down at the end of radiation when it all hit me at once and my radiation oncologist said, ‘I was waiting for that.’”

“I worked in the oncology department, so when I heard the news, my first thought was, ‘What stage is it? Did it metastasize?’” she says. “I thought about my kids, they were small and I didn’t know whether it had spread or not. And all of the surgery was a pain.”

Mullen says she couldn’t care less that she lost her breasts. “I just wanted them off me,” she says. “I didn’t want to have to worry about it anymore. You can get them reconstructed. There are more important things than breasts. What I hated was the fact that I couldn’t care for myself and all of a sudden I was shut down completely with drains in me.”

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Fighting breast cancer
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