Tara Miller, 38, is kicking butt. She’s an active mom of three and entrepreneur who’s completed a full marathon and several half marathons in her spare time. “My husband and I are huge advocates of staying active, eating healthy, and encouraging our kids and the kids we teach to do the same.” She and her husband Steven own Midtown Taekwondo, and she’s a seventh-degree master black belt.
Running her business, homeschooling her children, and staying active was the normal routine until last June. “I discovered a bump on my chest, and I thought it was a knot in my pectoral muscle from working out,” she says. But after several weeks, the knot remained, and Steven finally convinced her to go see a doctor.
The doctor was initially unconcerned because breast cysts aren’t uncommon. A diagnostic mammogram was recommended just in case. However, the mammogram and ultrasound revealed that the situation might be much more serious than she imagined. “I’ll never forget what [the radiologist] said, ‘I don’t like what I see, and I’m calling it cancer until proven otherwise.’”
The radiologist’s gut feeling was right. In September 2019, Tara was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo chemotherapy followed by a double mastectomy. Since the cancer was found in multiple areas, a simple lumpectomy wasn’t a possibility. Often chemo is done after surgery, but Tara’s doctor wanted to do it first to see how the tumor responded to treatment. Her first round of chemo started in late October.
Despite the physical toll, Tara remained active. “There were definitely days that were harder than others because my energy levels would be down, but I was determined to continue exercising the whole time,” she says.
In fact, Tara ran the Sylamore 25K Race in Arkansas in February just a few days after a chemotherapy treatment. She also trained for the 70.3 IRONMAN that was scheduled to be held in Memphis in October. “My doctors told me numerous times that my cancer journey and treatment were so much easier on my body because I was active and healthy going into it,” Tara says.
She underwent her bilateral mastectomy in June of this year. Going into it, she was most nervous about the recovery process and how long she would be sidelined. With a strong support system (including friends who went through a similar experience), she healed quickly.
Once Tara was cleared to resume working out, she jumped back in with both feet. She currently works out every day, often twice a day, because it helps her feel like her old self again. She runs and does taekwondo three to four days per week and works on strength/functional training and HIIT, each three days a week. When she needs to slow down, she does an active recovery day and walks 3–5 miles.
Ultimately, this experience showed Tara how important it is to model a healthy lifestyle for her children, the kids she teaches, and her friends. “Exercising, eating clean and healthy foods, and getting rid of toxic chemicals are so important to improving our quality of life,” she says. “If we can teach it to the next generation, we can hopefully start to make a change in the prevention of this rapidly growing disease.”
By Lucy Harrison. Photo by Tindall Stephens.