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Just a Bump in the Road

June 2, 2020 9:40 a.m.

  • Tara Kirchner

Kansas Woman is grateful for the outcome of her breast cancer journey.

When Tara Kirchner heard the word “cancer,” her mind went into overdrive.

“A million things started running through my mind. What’s next? What’s going to happen? What’s this going to look like? What’s this going to do to my husband? What’s this going to do to my boys? I kind of went into shock until I got over the hump. Then, I just plugged away and did what I had to do to get through it,” she said.

Tara’s breast cancer was spotted on a routine mammogram in November 2015. The cancer was the size of a grain of sand— a hopeful sign, as an early diagnosis generally leads to better outcomes. But when the diagnosis wasn’t adding up medically, Tara went for additional tests and consultations, all orchestrated by SBL Medical Oncologist Abdur Shakir, MD, and a partner specialist at SLUCare in St. Louis. In the end, three tumors were identified; one was estrogen-driven, the second was “triple negative,” and the third was “HER2/nue positive.” The combination is a “worst-case scenario” in breast cancer diagnosis.

For Tara, the most difficult part of the journey was telling her husband, Kurt, and her three college-age sons, Dakota, Drake and Derrick, that she had cancer. “I just thought I should remain positive and that cancer didn’t have to beat me down. I wasn’t going to crack open the door, not even a little bit, and let negative thoughts in. I just had to keep going,” she said. Tara held fast to her faith in God too, adding that Isaiah 41:10 was her anchor: “I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

She reflects on her experience as a bump in the road, but recognizes that, for others, cancer treatment is akin to climbing mountains. Tara worked hard to keep her daily routines and is proud to say that she only missed work on treatment days. “Sometimes I had to take a two-minute power nap at work, but I was determined to not let it conquer me. There were times when I was taking a shower that I would break down and cry, but I just let the tears flow down the drain and let my worries go,” she said. 

When Tara’s hair began falling out in clumps, she decided her hair absolutely must go— regardless of the dinner plans she and her husband had that night. Tara asked Kurt to shave her head, she put on a hat and out they went! “Nothing was going to get in my way of living normally,” Tara said.

In total, Tara underwent 16 chemotherapy treatments and tracked her progress by pulling a paper tab from a tracker she’d posted to her refrigerator. She also had 35 radiation treatments across seven weeks. 

Tara credits Dr. Shakir with helping her along her journey. “I completely trusted Dr. Shakir. He knew the path I was on and he knew I didn’t want a mastectomy,” she said. “He had my best interests at heart. He was always there for me and was definitely in my corner.”

For more information, or to make an appointment at the Sarah Bush Lincoln Regional Cancer Center, call 217 258-2250. 

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