Age: 37 7_Tamara B Rodriguez
Profession: Chief Operating Officer / Author
Type of Breast Cancer: HER2 Positive
Number of years as a survivor: 3 years
Relationship to Susan G. Komen: Race participant, Volunteer

If I had to use 2 words to describe myself before my diagnosis, it would have been: independent and feminine. After my diagnosis, at the age of 35, I felt weak. My doctors recommended a double mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy. I would lose my hair and my breasts. I never once thought about what it would be like to have my breasts removed-the only thing on my mind was what would happen to my 5 and 6 year-old daughters if I died. I felt like I had failed them.

Children are resilient. They will surprise you and remind you that love is inherent. It was important for me that my daughters knew that their mother was going through something. I guess I had no choice since the scars were so visible and I spent so much time in bed. I spoke to them logically using “real words.” When I was going through chemo, I explained that losing my hair was directly related to the medicine that I was taking. I reassured them that once the medicine was over, the hair would grow back. I remember the look they both had when they saw me in the shower with my bald head. The shock took hours to settle. Today, I do not feel that my children see me differently since I was diagnosed. I feel that they are very aware and sensitive to the situation. I am not sure if they will remember the way they felt when they saw me without areolas or nipples, but I know that during the process they acted like mature and kind beings. They made me feel more comfortable than I thought I could feel with my appearance.

In the many lessons that I have learned through this experience, the one that will resonate is the capacity of children to be rational. I was able to explain to them that I found a lump in my breast and the lump needed to be removed. I was able to have conversations about my chemo treatment, my wig itching, and my hot flashes. I told them that I would sleep at the hospital and be back. I would let them know ahead of time when I had chemo treatments. They understood it all. Many said that a young child would not understand cancer. In today’s reality, I am not sure how to hide cancer from children. Cancer is omnipresent. I am proud of the way my children handled this journey. They have been caring, honest, and brave.

I wanted my daughters to know that the mommy they loved and admired with hair-was the same loving and passionate mommy without hair. I wanted to reminded women around the world that our breasts do not define who we are. This was my intent while writing Hair to the Queen! Today, my relationship with my daughters and husband is stronger than ever and I realized that my femininity and my strength came from within and it never had anything to do with my breasts. Today, I feel more confident and determined!