Tara Beats Cancer: Gearing UpBy Guest
On Friday, August 10, 32-year-old Tara Shuman, a married mother of two and a successful health care attorney at Verrill Dana LLP, was blindsided by a diagnosis of breast cancer. She had no apparent risk factors, and until two weeks ago had no knowledge of what the disease entailed. As a way to cope and to share her story with others, she decided to chronicle her journey in a blog entitled “Total Recovery. Full Stop. Checkmate. I win.”
A 1998 graduate of Canton High School, Shuman taught social studies at her alma mater from 2002-2007 before pursuing a career in law. Her husband, Brian, is the CHS boys’ ice hockey coach and teaches history at Westwood High School. The couple lives in Canton with their son, Teddy, 4 ½, and daughter, Annabel, 1 ½.
Below is an excerpt from Shuman’s blog, reprinted with the author’s permission. Follow her journey at www.tarabeatscancer.com.
This blog is the story of a journey that I never dreamed I would have to take.
Gearing Up: August 12, 2012
Brian left the zoo as soon as I called to tell him that we have moved to the biopsy stage. They were at the lions’ den and didn’t have a chance to see any more. Teddy being Teddy, he told everyone later that afternoon, “That was a small zoo!” Gotta love that kid — he always knows how to tell it just like it is. Can’t wait for his commentary on my big bald head!
By 2 p.m. we had told my immediate family of the probable cancer diagnosis. By 7 p.m. my mother had returned early from a business trip in Nashville, my sister and brother-in-law had flown in from Virginia, and my brother had run out of work to give me hugs and assure me that everything was going to be alright. Brianne and Seamus (my best friend and her husband) had scooped up Teddy for an indoor mini-golf adventure so that Brian and I could process everything while Annabel napped. They have always been our angels.
My Mom’s reaction was exactly as I would have suspected — obviously crushed and wishing she could take my place, she cried a bit, hugged me tight, made a few jokes, then got down to business. Within hours she had talked to anyone and everyone that could be a resource for us and perhaps in record time, we were hooked into the system at Dana Farber and she had made friends with key people there. This is one lady you want in your corner, and I’ve been blessed to have her in mine for 32 years.
My Dad’s reaction was also as expected — he doesn’t take no for an answer. He hugged me tighter than he ever had, crying like I’d never seen. He grit his teeth, and with a tone intertwined with love and anger, he declared, We’ll throw the world at this thing. It has no chance. We will fight it. You will beat it. We will fight, fight, fight, you got that? I didn’t feel that fire just yet, but appreciated his big comforting hug, and the fact that I had another fighter in my corner. But just days later as I write this, I’m getting that fighter’s spirit — that attitude to scream at the intruder, “We’re coming after you and you don’t stand a chance.”
My sister was different. She strolled in without a tear in her eye. She hugged me, totally sympathetic but oddly relaxed too. When we finally got a minute alone she looked me in the eye and told me that she’s only upset that I’ll have to go through grueling treatment, but not really upset because she knows in her heart and soul that everything is going to be fine. For the first time since I had heard the dreaded word I felt an ounce of peace. I made her repeat it over and over until somehow, I started to believe it. My sister and I have always had a connection that we instinctively know things about one another before we even talk. Rachel was 100 percent sure that Annabel was a girl and even called the baby “Annabel” when she was no bigger than a lima bean. Oddly, on the day of my mammogram, Rachel hadn’t gone to work. She had no reason not to, she just had a feeling that she should work from home that day. So when my mom called mid-afternoon, Rachel was home, packed in minutes, and on the next flight to Boston.
Then there was my brother, “Un-coe” as Annabel constantly repeats, my angel, my techie, my Googler, my doer. He cleaned our house from top to bottom that night, hugged me, and took care of me as if I was his little sister. He knows exactly how to make me feel better, and his girlfriend who is studying to get into medical school is going to be just the kind of doctor I’ll want at my bedside.
That night, we all huddled in our house, so close and so nervous it felt as if a war was going on outside. Even the Olympics, my ultimate pick-me-up, provided only a tentative distraction. But somehow, amidst the utter terror we all felt inside, I felt safety and comfort that we were all gearing up for a battle we would win.
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