“Ta-ta” is an informal salutation among friends and for Amber Henson, it refers to something just as dear. Amber established My Tata Testimony with a mission to generate support for individuals who are diagnosed or are at risk for breast cancer. Through educational and preparedness resources, Amber empowers these “new friends” with knowledge and hope. This mission fulfillment work is a result of her own cancer journey that began in 2019.
“I always considered myself a fairly healthy person,” Amber reflects. “I had to find a new gynecologist, and when I did, they wanted me to get a mammogram as I had never had one before. They called it a baseline.” This initial procedure revealed a small cancerous spot in her right breast. The medical team recommended a lumpectomy and assured her that the procedure would resolve any issues. “My doctor asked me to come in again for another lumpectomy as he was not able to get all of the cancerous spots within a clear margin,” she explains. “I did that, and when he called a second time saying he was not able to get all of the cancerous areas, I decided to research other procedures tailored to my needs.”
Thankfully, Amber’s cancer was a stage 0; she had the time to research options and craft a plan. ”I saw eight doctors before I found Dr. Kristi Funk in California. She was the first physician willing to do genetic testing on me, and I am beyond grateful she did. I would be telling a much different story if she hadn’t.” This genetic testing indicates breast cancer gene 1 or 2, also known as the BRCA gene. Her devotion to the other women in her family – her mother and nieces – was the reason. The good news is she did not have BRCA, but the bad news was she did have a rare gastric cancer gene known as CDH1.
“I had two relatives die because of stomach cancer, and I learned it is directly related to lobular breast cancer, which was found in my pathology,” Amber elaborates. “This is so rare that it affects one in nine million families. It upended my breast cancer treatment when I had to have my stomach removed, but they found three tumors in the lining of my stomach they had not detected previously so, in a way, breast cancer saved my life.” Amber had her stomach removed at M.D. Anderson in Houston, Texas. “Very few people in Arkansas had ever even heard about this type of stomach cancer. Fortunately, Dr. Paul Mansfield, who did my stomach procedure, was able to remove it laparoscopically then connect my esophagus directly to my intestine. It has changed entirely how I eat, what I drink, the products I buy for my personal care as well as housekeeping. I have never felt healthier.”
Last year her cancer journey and what she learned inspired her. “All I could think about was how I needed to raise funds to fight breast cancer and educate people to advocate for their own health,” she reflects. “I asked four of my commercial clients if they would do a fundraiser for me, and all of them said yes. We hoped to raise $5,000, but because so many people came out and contributed, we raised more than $100,000.” The result of this success is My Tata Testimony and a check presentation to Our Promise Cancer Resources in Hot Springs. My Tata Testimony will host a series of events in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. “It’s vital that I share what I’ve learned and what has helped me along the way so others will be prepared and use that knowledge as power. Together, we can empower the women and men in our community affected by this horrible disease.”