Tawnya Sheffield is no stranger to breast cancer. Sixteen women in her mother’s family have had the disease. In 2013, Tawnya learned she had breast cancer. This is her story in her own words.
The possibility that I could have breast cancer has always been in the back of my mind. After all, 16 women on my mother’s side have had the disease. I’ve always been diligent about getting regular check-ups, and because of my family history, I began getting annual mammograms at age 30. They generally came back clear, but then in the summer of 2013, I received a call from my doctor. He found something that looked odd, and he wanted me back in for a biopsy.
Before I even made it home from the biopsy, the office called wanting me to come back. It was official – I had become the 17th woman in my mother’s family to be diagnosed with breast cancer. Shawn, my husband (then fiancé), was terrified, but I had been through this before. I came from a family of fighters. We would deal with the diagnosis – invasive ductal carcinoma, stage 2 – and I would fight it. My biggest concern was that I didn’t have insurance at the time. In fact, my mammogram had been covered through Susan G. Komen’s financial assistance program.
Two days before my diagnosis, my cousin, Tracy, passed away from metastatic breast cancer. We were as thick as thieves and more like sisters than cousins. Unfortunately, she had been misdiagnosed initially, and by the time doctors realized she had breast cancer, it was stage 4. The beginning of my treatment was rough. Not just because of the surgeries, but because of the guilt I felt at having caught my caught my cancer at an early stage when she had not.
I underwent a double mastectomy with reconstruction. My recovery was brutal; there were complications that required more surgery, but I got through it. I had a great support system of friends and family. We just trucked on through it. I did not require intravenous chemotherapy, but I did take tamoxifen for five years following my diagnosis to reduce my risk of recurrence (coming back). I also did genetic testing and was shocked when I learned I did not carry a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation.
My family has always been very vocal supporters of Komen. We have participated in Race for the Cure events for many years, and my sister attended an advocacy summit in Washington, D.C. My husband and I were even married on the stage at a Komen Race for the Cure event just two days before my double mastectomy.
When Komen announced the Pickleball for the Cure program in 2022, I knew I had to sign up to host an event. I don’t play pickleball, but my dad is an avid pickler. Hosting a fundraising tournament in our community would be something we could do together to not only raise awareness, but crucial funds to help support breast cancer research. We worked as a team, with my dad handling the tournament logistics – bracketing and divisions – and I took on the marketing and fundraising aspects of the event. Our event was held on Saturday, September 24 in Terre Haute, Indiana, and we were pleased with our turnout and participation.
The pickleball community is growing in leaps and bounds, and I’ve been amazed by how passionate and supportive they have been once they learn about Pickleball for the Cure. I hope to inspire this community to really pull together in the fight. It’s all for a great cause – research and helping fund mammograms for people who can’t afford them – and that is very important to me.
Pickleball for the Cure is the nation’s first official fundraiser that offers players of all levels the opportunity to play the sport they love while raising funds to end breast cancer. To learn more, visit www.komen.org/pickleball.
Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.