Tye's Fight Against Breast Cancer

On February 21, 2019, I got a call that would forever change my life. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. It seemed impossible. It was just a little lump. This pesky little lump resulted in a mammogram, ultrasound, biopsy, and finally, the inevitable diagnosis. I was an active, healthy 31 year old with breast cancer. 

Days felt like weeks waiting for cancer centers to call me back. University had an opening on April 16th - a mere 50 days wait (they did eventually call me back with an opening on March 15th). I spent countless hours on the internet trying to get answers, while simultaneously finding more questions. Who knew I would need a surgical oncologist, radiation oncologist, medical oncologist, and plastic surgeon, just to start?! 

I don't like asking for help. It's the first rule of being a Taurus. I swallowed my pride and called an old friend, Carrie from my days at Johns Hopkins. She is a respected plastic surgeon who completed her residency at Johns Hopkins and has first hand experience and knowledge of all the breast surgeons there. She recommended two surgeons and without hesitation called in a favor. After one small hiccup that required my incredible brother sending a hand-written letter to the surgical oncologist pleading with her to take my case, I was scheduled for back-to-back consults. One week later I was in Baltimore meeting with the amazing care team at Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The funny thing about breast cancer is, there is not a standard treatment plan. Deciding on a treatment is a lot like a "pick your own adventure" book. You weigh the pros and cons of options A, B, and C and then make a choice based on what you value most and what feels like the least bad option, which leads to another set of choices that requires the same deliberative process.   

The first surgeon I met with at St. Anthony's Breast Center recommended double mastectomy immediately with implant reconstruction. The surgeons at Johns Hopkins recommended a single mastectomy with implant or flap (fat grafting) reconstruction. The surgeons at University recommended a lumpectomy with radiation and no recommendation for reconstruction. 

I spent a lot of time crying. I cried because I was angry. I cried because I was sad. I cried because it felt so unfair. I cried because I didn't know what else to do. When I finished crying all the tears my little eyes could make, I decided on a plan that felt the "least bad." I am flying to Baltimore to have Dr. Melissa Camp remove my left breast and Dr. Michele Manahan put in a tissue expander on April 18th. After 2-6 months, I will need an implant exchange and plan to stay in Denver and have Dr. Chris Williams complete the initial reconstruction as well as the expected cosmetic touch-up surgeries to follow.

I am beyond grateful to have the most supportive family, friends, co-workers, and boss. Everyone has been so kind in asking what they can do and how they can help. I will be out of work for 6-8 weeks for the first surgery (mastectomy) and second surgery (implant exchange) with endless follow-up appointments in the inbetween. As a "new" employee at the health department, I am not eligible for most benefits (including FMLA). I accrue a total of 6.6 hours of sick leave per month and will be taking medical leave without pay for each surgery. As much as I know my dad would deplete every bank account he has to cover all my medical bills and living expenses, it just doesn't feel right to put this financial burden on top of the emotional burden I am putting him through. 

I would never ask anyone to contribute to my cancer fund (see above comment about being a Taurus), but for those of you who have asked me time and again how you can help me and my family, this seemed like a good alternative. I am so appreciative of all the offers to bring me food and drive me to appointments, but with the unending medical bills and travel expenses, I know my biggest need will be financially. I have a long road ahead and I am prepared to fight like hell. I couldn't do this without the love and support from each and every one of you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I am forever grateful. <3 Tye
  • Anonymous 
    • $20 
    • 27 mos
  • Jim and Melyne Strickland 
    • $50 
    • 30 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $150 
    • 30 mos
  • Dave Brokering 
    • $100 
    • 31 mos
  • Jocelyn Gubein  
    • $100 
    • 31 mos
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Tye Harlow 
Denver, CO
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