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Survivor Stories: Crystal Brown-Tatum

Survivor Stories: Crystal Brown-Tatum

How did you first find out you had cancer? 

I found a lump while applying lotion. Several months later, I went to the doctor. He performed a biopsy and ultrasound.  I received the news over the phone that it was cancer.

How did you react when you heard the news? 

I was on a business trip and surrounded by strangers so I had to keep my compusure. When I returned to my hotel room, I was in complete shock.  It took me a few days until I cried because I felt I had to be strong for everyone else.

What course of treatment were you prescribed?

Lumpectomy, 4 rounds of ECT chemo protocol (epirubicin, taxotere and cytoxan) and 37 radiation treatments.

What most surprised you about your treatment?

Chemo wasn’t as bad as I expected and the nausea was well controlled by medications. The radiation drained me off energy for years and the post lymph node dissection recovery was very painful. I had a JP drainage tube for 5 weeks!

What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?

Take a deep breath and soak it all in. Load up on information from credible sources and survivors. Follow your instinct and gut when deciding on a treatment plan and trust your doctor’s guidance and knowledge.

How long have you been cancer free?

5 1/2 years

What lessons did you learn from the experience? 

I learned that I am stronger than I often gave myself credit for.  I also learned that beauty can be taken at any minute and you better have something else going for you! Lastly, I learned that the cancer community is supporting and faith-based and you can always find people who want to help you if you simply ask.

If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?

You are good enough just by existing in this world. You don’t have to be rich, pretty or extraordinary but you do have to be genuine and compassionate.


Crystal Brown-Tatum is a San Antonio, Texas native.  She is the author of three poetry books, one nationally published fiction novel Caramel and Cream and a nationally acclaimed breast cancer memoir entitled Saltwater Taffy and Red High Heels.  Crystal is the 2011-2012 Mrs. Black Louisiana and was twice voted Miss Congeniality in the Miss Texas USA pageant and was a top ten finalist in the Miss San Antonio USA pageant. Crystal is very active in the community and has lobbied on Capitol Hill for heart attack and stroke survivors and been instrumental in community outreach on several local political and grassroots campaigns.  She is married to Sergeant First Class Philip Tatum and has one daughter, Jaclyn.


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