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October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Nashville Goes Pink October 21 for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer

Wilson County resident, Tara Shirer is the Senior Development Manager for the American Cancer Society Southeast Region, and she is a breast cancer survivor. Following her 2020 diagnosis, her passion grew for educating women about genetic mutations and cancer risks. She tells her story below with hope that it will encourage other women to get screened, to tell their stories and to know that they are not alone in their journey.

In March 2020 I found a lump in my breast. It was pea sized and hard. I ignored it. I was busy with life and work. Until one day I could ignore it no longer. I called my OB/GYN. She suggested I get a mammogram.

I was diagnosed with stage 2 HER2+ positive breast cancer by the radiologist. I was 37. It was my first mammogram.  It was the news that I had been dreading but already knew was coming.

My world was upended in a matter of minutes. I went home and told my husband. I collapsed into his arms crying saying “I’m so sorry." He said we will get through this whatever it takes and we did just that. I had six rounds of chemotherapy, and a double mastectomy with reconstruction.

After my cancer diagnosis, I took a genetic test. I tested negative for BRAC1 and BRAC2, I breathed a sigh of relief.  I soon found out I tested positive for ATM. What is ATM?. The one fact that broke through the fog of my shock was women with an ATM gene mutation have an increased lifetime risk of breast cancer from 12.5% to 53%. Meaning there was always a 50% chance that I would be diagnosed with Breast Cancer, but there was no way for me to know that I had a gene mutation until after I was diagnosed.

A blaze began to burn in me, a desire to educate and to spread awareness about gene mutations and cancer risks. It is important to talk to your family about their medical history and to advocate for yourself. Know your body. If something doesn’t feel right call your doctor. It has been two years since my final treatment. 

I am grateful for every breath I take, for every sunrise and for every precious memory I make with my family. Life after cancer is beautiful, but there are times when it is shrouded by anxiety and fear of recurrence.

There is a piece of me that longs to leave my experience and my feelings toward it in the past, but trauma has a strange way of creeping up on us when we least expect it. It is important to be gentle with yourself and to allow yourself to heal. The love and support of my friends and family remind me that I am not alone.

My daughter is my joy, and my husband is my rock, always standing beside me.

Want to get involved? Join the Making Strides of Nashville walk/run on October 21, 2023. The program begins at 7am and the walk kicks off at 8am at the Walk of Fame Park located at 121 4th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37201

Visit to register and for more information.

I found a lump in my breast, pea sized and hard. I was 37, it was my first mammogram; I was diagnosed with breast cancer.