It wasn’t a lump. It’s fine. That’s what Kimberley resident Tasha Johnston told herself when she noticed a small dimple, or divot, in her breast.
Tasha has lived in Kimberley since 2003, after growing up in Cranbrook. She has two children, Parker, 11 and Paige, 13. She and her husband Glen are a billet family for the Dynamiters, and they volunteer for the team as well.
They are just about to move into a new home, and it was while staying with her mother while waiting for it to be built in the summer of 2020 that Tasha discovered the abnormality in her breast.
The little dimple couldn’t really be felt but she did notice it in the mirror when she raised her arms over her head.
“It was just a little dimple. I had no idea it could be cancer. I’ve always been told lumps, bumps or major changes. I just figured it was part of changes in my body after having kids.”
She does see her doctor regularly and does self checks, but at first she didn’t think it was necessary to have it examined.
It was a chance post on social media in April 2021 that alerted her to the fact that it could be more.
“Someone had put up a post about other signs of breast cancer. The description was identical. I thought maybe I should pay attention.
“Really I was caught off guard. I have no family history. Cancer wasn’t on my radar.”
After fretting about it for a few more days, Tasha decided to visit her doctor. Her doctor couldn’t feel anything but could see it, and decided to send her for a mammogram and ultrasound, just to be sure.
She had those scans three weeks later and found out almost immediately that there was something there. Two days later a biopsy confirmed breast cancer.
After consultation with a surgeon a lumpectomy was recommended. But he also noticed two other spots of calcification on the scans and ordered an MRI, which saw concerns. She had more biopsies.
It turned out to be two different cancers, and Tasha wasn’t comfortable with lumpectomies any more. It was decided she would have a double mastectomy, which she did in June of this year.
“Once we made that decision, I was more comfortable,” she said.
She has recovered well from the surgery, but future treatment is still up in the air. She will be speaking to an oncologist in October.
Through the BC Cancer Society, her biopsies were sent at no cost to a special lab in California for Onco Type DX testing, for a deeper evaluation. Those results will be discussed with her oncologist this month and she will learn if she needs chemo or radiation.
“I don’t mind the delays if we get a clearer picture,” she said.
In the meantime, she has the support of family and friends, and takes a great deal of comfort from a Facebook group of Kootenay women with cancer.
“We share stories and give advice,” she said. “It’s amazing the people I’ve found who have had it.”
Tasha is happy to share her story if it helps someone who may be wrestling with taking what seems like an insignificant thing to their doctor.
“If you feel anything abnormal at all.. so many little things just weren’t that alarming. If there is something different, anything different, go get it checked out.
“If I didn’t read that random post I’d still be sitting here not knowing. If I can help anyone, I’m glad to.”