Tara Ernske is an avid proponent of keeping up with routine breast exams.
“I want all women, especially younger women, to do their monthly breast self-exams and to be sure to see a physician once a year for a breast exam.”
Tara knows first-hand the importance of these exams. During her own annual checkup at the beginning of 2014, Tara’s practitioner detected an abnormality and insisted on following up. It was this diligence that was instrumental in the early detection of Tara’s breast cancer. In February of 2014, Tara was diagnosed with Stage 1 Grade 2 Estrogen Positive Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. She had no family history of the disease, and she ultimately tested negative for the BRCA mutation.
“I want to stress that breast cancer does happen to young women. It even happens to young women who don’t have a family history,” Tara said. I never thought I had to worry about getting breast cancer at age 30!”
Even though Tara’s diagnosis came as a shock, she refused to let breast cancer slow her down even a little bit. Having transitioned from a career in broadcasting to one in nursing, her passion to impact her patients’ lives only grew. She worked full-time at Ohio Health throughout her treatment. When asked why she made the switch from one industry to another, the answer was simple.
“I wanted to work in an industry where I could help people and make a difference in someone’s life during a hard time. Being a nurse is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. Every day that I get to speak to patients and their families, hold their hands, and even share some of my experiences to help relieve some of their anxiety brings such joy to my heart.”
This generous survivor continues to be an advocate in her spare time as well. She has been featured in Women’s Health and Self magazines and on Good Day Columbus, all while being an active member of the Young Survivor Coalition and Komen Young Professionals. We are delighted to announce that Tara will be joining this year’s Race for the Cure as an Honorary Race Chair.
One thing Tara stresses is that having a young diagnosis is scary, but that it also forces you to think about array of issues the general public never considers. For example, early in her battle, she had to think about fertility options so that she would have the opportunity to start a family down the line. She was already in a steady relationship with her partner John, but she acknowledges that it was stressful to have their first real conversation about family planning in a moment when they were already dealing with so much. Between fertility treatments and coping with her diagnosis, she admits that she felt like she was on an emotional rollercoaster.
Tara feels incredibly grateful to have had such a strong support system throughout this experience, especially because she knows that isn’t always the case. Between John, her family, and a close group of girlfriends, it was rare that she had to attend even a single doctor’s appointment alone. They were there for her during treatments, fundraisers, when she shaved her head, and when she just needed a night to focus on anything but cancer. While she would never say that she was glad she had to fight this terrible disease, she does mention that she is grateful for even stronger relationships and a changed perspective on life.
As a young survivor and medical professional, Tara would like to see research more focused on her age group. She notes that most of the statistics regarding survival and recurrence are focused on women that are decades older than she is. Young survivors are often left with feelings of uncertainty and anxiety because the research doesn’t always reflect what they experience. So Tara continues to push for awareness and advances in both her profession and community. We are positive that she will continue to make a difference, and we look forward to pushing to end breast cancer once and for all right beside her at the Race for the Cure in May.
Join Tara and the rest of our inspiring Honorary Race Chairs at the Race on Saturday, May 14. Register today and begin your fundraising.