BEYOND THE SCARS: Why Tiana is stronger inside and out
THE tale behind the visible, and sometimes hidden, markings on our bodies can move from inspiring to heartbreaking as people bravely share their life stories.
Daily Mercury photojournalist Tony Martin speaks with some of the courageous people in our region in our moving new series Life Beyond the Scars.
SCARS can run deep, both physical and emotional, but for Tiana Fry her positive outlook on life has limited her wounds.
She was at home alone on September 26, 2018 when her doctor called with her diagnosis.
"I didn't cry, but when I told my husband Gary, he was upset and cried," she said.
"I then told my daughter Lacey who teared up." And that made her cry.
Tiana's doctor gave her a few treatment options for the breast cancer that had permeated her body but she had to decide within two weeks.
With the support of her husband Gary and her family, she decided to have a double mastectomy.
"Gary and I do everything together and even though it's my body, I didn't see it being just my decision," she said.
"In fact, I don't think of this whole thing as something I've gone through, I think that 'we' have gone through it.
"He's as much a part of everything as what I am.
"I just had to suffer the physical stuff where as he suffered more emotionally than I did because he had to watch me go through everything - it was hard for him."
Following the surgery, Tiana was told she had stage 3 invasive lobular carcinoma, a form of breast cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes.
She underwent chemotherapy, radiation and still has ongoing physiotherapy. Through the whole process Tiana said she never felt she had lost identity.
"I was just always so positive and certain we were taking the right steps,"
"We were confident in the doctor's ability and what he recommended."
After all the appointments and procedures stopped and Tiana had a moment to herself, she briefly crashed emotionally but she said it wasn't in her nature to let the uglier moments keep her down.
"My life that I knew was suddenly changed, and I no longer had all these appointments every single week or radiation every day, so, you go from every day to nothing at all.
"(With) treatment everyday, if you had something going on, a new pain, you could get it seen to or checked, even though you aren't abandoned, you feel like that."
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Only a couple of months ago, Tiana bravely stood in front of the mirror and looked at her physical scars.
"I didn't feel like I'd lost my identity as Tiana, but as a person - one thing I kept thinking was, men have nipples, babies have nipples, everyone I know has nipples except me, I felt a bit freakish," she said.
"I removed myself out of the vision, so I just looked at a person, a body.
"And after doing that I thought well it's not that hideous, it's obviously still a chest and you actually don't notice that the person doesn't have nipples.
"That's about the only time I haven't felt that positive."
Tiana, who became the Ambassador for Mackay's 2019 Relay for Life, said she had focused on helping others. She believes her experience is an opportunity to do that.
"I think everyone is individual, to have support of a family is amazing but not everyone has that, so if people could choose one person for support, that's important, and to be brave enough to accept help, and I would say to rest when you need it."
"And I would also like to make people aware, that when they finish their regime of treatment the world would see that as a joyful time, but it's not really like that, that's when I fell in a heap. I'd try to make people aware that can be a difficult time."
"Being involved in the relay was an honour and also an eye opener. Being there it was quite powerful and I don't think I will miss another one."
"Hopefully I was able to convey some positivity."
Cancer Council Queensland CEO Chris McMillan said Ms Fry was an inspiring addition to the Mackay Relay For Life event.
"Tiana Fry showed true community spirit, compassion, and genuine love and kindness," Ms McMillan said.
"Ms Fry shared her cancer journey and demonstrated the importance of positivity and community support for those impacted by cancer."
At the end of her treatment, Tiana thought about starting a support group but felt it was not the right time.
She then became involved with a group Cath McGregor had newly formed; the Mackay Breast Cancer Support Group, which had been meeting once a month.
"It was a chance to help people and also being helped at the same time," she said, noting they would meet again on the weekend for the first time since coronavirus restrictions began.
Despite the ordeal, Tiana said not a whole lot had changed in her life and she was still living conservatively for a long future rather than making impulsive life choices.
"I've always loved my family, but I am just so happy to be at home with my kids and grandkids, I cannot think of a more perfect life."
When she looks in the mirror now, she wears her scars with pride.
"Physically they are healed on the outside, on the inside I still have a lot pain," she said.
"Emotionally, I think it's a day by day thing, my default is grateful, but sometimes it's a choice which as well helps lessen my emotional scarring to a great degree.
"But when I have moments when I'm not so happy, I'm OK with that because that's real."