I’m Chiquita Tillman McAllister, I’m the daughter
of Barbara and Otis Tillman, the proud mother of Monique, Megan and Melanie, and grandmother
of Christian and Madison- the loves of my life.
In 2010, I was doing a self-examination of my breast and it just felt funny. It didn’t
hurt. I just felt funny. It just didn’t feel the same as they used to feel. So I called
my OBGYN and told her that I was experiencing a little bit of discomfort and she couldn’t
feel what I was talking about. And I was like: It’s right here. It’s right here. I went on
and had my mammogram. And they didn’t see anything either. So they finally did an ultrasound.
They found a little little bitty piece they said it was about half the size of a pea.
We can’t believe that you found this. But we just think it’s a cyst and we’re 99.9%
sure that it’s not cancerous. And I said well okay. Are you going to take it out? Yes we’re
going to take it out. I kept waking up at night and saying: If it’s that small, why
does my breast feel so much heavier on that side? I couldn’t sleep. I finally called the
surgeon again and said: Please you have to do something else to give me peace of mind.
And they ordered a biopsy- MRI-guided biopsy- and they found a mass on the right side of
my breast. So I went in expecting that you were going
to tell me I could go back to work in two days ended up, long story short, being out
for about a year’s time. Yeah. They had to end up doing a double mastectomy.
My message that I want to give to people who are facing this challenge is that you have
choices about what kinds of services are provided to you.
I did not choose to stay with the first surgeon that I visited with and ended up at Wake Forest
Baptist Hospital- which is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I felt that I was
the most special person. I know you have patients all over the place, but when I was in their
presence, I was the most special person in the whole wide world. And I felt like I was
able to turn my life over into their hands. They had a very comprehensive team approach
that made me feel so safe and I felt overly educated after. I mean from the beginning
to the end about what I was getting ready to encounter.
My two doctors, along with their staff, I felt like they were a part of my family. Dr.
Howard-McNatt, I saw right after I had my surgery, at a Susan B. Komen race and I’m
saying, she’s not only living and doing it at work, but she’s doing it in her own personal
life- providing support to women. Dr. Pestana, what he helped me with mostly
was helping to reestablish my sense of womanhood. He encouraged me to look at myself and to
embrace where I was. You know, of course I’m thankful for being alive. But to say, maybe
you might just have to redefine what your womanhood is about.
I’m very thankful to both of them to help me be more of a– I guess more confident woman
and to look at beauty in different ways. So I’m very very thankful for them being a part
of my journey. I am so proud to be a breast cancer survivor.
I can’t say that some mornings I don’t get up and I feel just a little bit insecure or
a little bit afraid. But then I, you know, just get quiet and say: Why is it that I’m
having to endure this? I think part of it is that I can save other people as well- to
be there and be supportive- be a part of their journey. Not to save them, but to be part
of their journey.