AURORA, Mo. — “I almost canceled my mammogram,” Tonyha Sumners remembers summer 2013.
Sumners is a teacher at the mercy college of nursing.
“I teach the importance of a yearly mammogram and regular self-breast exams and thought I cannot skip it,” she said.
It’s a good thing she didn’t. When Sumners got a call confirming a follow-up appointment she never scheduled, she knew something wasn’t right.
“I honestly don’t remember how I got from my office…to meet with my doctor, but I did,” Sumners said.
She was diagnosed in August 2013.
“You are told that you’re cancer-free, but you’re never without fear,” Sumners added. “So when things come up in yearly physicals, or you’re not feeling well, or you have a symptom, it may be that.”
But Sumners is much more than a teacher. She’s a daughter.
“Because she’s a fighter and survived it, I knew that I could too.” Sumners helped her mother overcome breast cancer years before she would do the same. “She held my hand when it hurt,” Sumners said, grasping her mother’s hand on the couch next to her.
Sumners is a warrior.
“I was not a fast walker,” she said about her first Making Strides Against Cancer walk as a survivor in October 2013. “Every year. This will be my sixth year to walk. I will walk until i can’t. Then I will have someone push my wheelchair if I need to. It means that much to me.”
Family photos line the stairwell between Sumners’ living room and the basement. She’s also a mother.
“Sometimes when you don’t have enough fight, rely on your friends and family,” she advises others. “Your church. Your faith. Let them fight for you until you have the strength to fight with them.”
And Sumners is a survivor.
“I live in fear, but I don’t let that fear consume me,” Sumners said. “I have hope. Every year, every day that I wake up, that is a day that I’ve beat cancer.”