“I have a strong history of cancer on the maternal side of my family,” Tyesha Love says. “When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was identified as a carrier of the breast cancer gene. I got tested, and learned I was positive for the BRCA 1 mutation.”
Knowing that breast cancer ran in her family, Tyesha was vigilant of her health from a young age, and always looked over her shoulder.
“I began getting mammograms at the age of 25,” she says. “Then at age 29, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.”
Deconstructing Her Body
It was a rough road to recovery. She had complications early on, including infections, so she was forced to postpone her breast reconstruction until she finished her chemotherapy. That wasn’t easy.
“It would’ve been easier to deal with this if I could have had them reconstructed,” she says. “I was walking around with holes in my chest. And it was difficult losing my hair.”
Aside from the physical effect breast cancer had on her, Tyesha was juggling everything else that comes with life.
“I’m a single parent with two children,” she says. “It’s tough being a mom and dealing with [breast cancer] behind closed doors . . . being the person they needed, and dealing with it on my own.”
Tyesha fought on, and after a couple of months of chemo, she started the reconstruction process—of her body and her mind.
“It was so much to take emotionally,” Tyesha says. “So the thing is to work towards survival. I sought outlets that would allow me to channel my desolateness into positive energy.”
To help her deal with her emotions, Tyesha kept a journal of her experience, which she describes as “raw.”
“I always found writing to be therapeutic,” she says. “I wrote about everything I was thinking, feeling, how surgery felt, how cancer affected relationships, concerns for my kids and finances.”
Reconstructing Her Mind
Her battle with breast cancer would endure a little over a year, but today, Tyesha is stronger than before. When she was done writing, friends and family encouraged her to publish a book of her entries, which she later titled I Am Not My Hair: A Young Woman’s Journey and Triumph Over Breast Cancer. It was released in 2010.
“It took a while because my journal is very detailed and graphic, and it exposed so much of me. So I struggled with the idea of publishing it,” she says. “But then I thought it was needed in order for me to expose the voiceless words of a cancer diagnosis and treatment.”
Tyesha also does speaking engagements to tell her story and inspire other women in the fight. That has been incredibly rewarding.
“All sorts of people have spoken to me after my speaking engagements; even people who haven’t been affected by breast cancer,” she says. “A lady wrote to me saying she hadn’t been touched by cancer directly but was uplifted spiritually and emotionally, since she’d been struggling with other things personally.”
She also serves on the board of a couple breast cancer organizations. Her activism is admirable. In fact, she’s being honored at the Living Beyond Breast Cancer Butterfly Ball next month.
“My family received a financial assistance grant from LBBC,” Tyesha says. “That’s how the relationship took off. It’s been amazing. They’ve given me opportunities to share my story and connect with women. The meetings are so informative and emotionally supportive, which is why I continue to have a relationship with them.”
Looking back at her struggles, Tyesha offers words of advice and consolation for others going through whatever struggles they face.
“I went through dark moments,” she says. “I wanted to give up, no more treatments and enjoy the last of my days. But if I were to talk to that Tyesha, I’d tell myself to not lose sight of what you have here, your loved ones. Don’t give up hope.”
“That’s what I kept hearing,” she says. “You have to go through this dark season to get back to the light.”
And to those men and women fighting breast cancer, she says, “Take whatever actions you need to take. Whether it’s surgery, treatment, a support group—seek all those things you need to heal emotionally and physically.”
“Seek out the resources and don’t give up.”