No one in Tameka Boyajian’s family had breast cancer, so when she was diagnosed in 2011 at just 29, she couldn't believe it. "I was shocked and mentally numb,” she recalls. A bilateral mastectomy followed diagnosis, but it wasn’t until she lost her hair after the first chemo treatment that reality set in. “I realized this wasn’t a bad dream.”

She says there was a point where she wanted to give up, but her mother’s simple words -- “That’s not an option” – gave her impetus to keep going. And that’s when Boyajian began to take charge. “I have always been a fighter,” she says, but “this experience stripped me down to the bare bones and rebuilt a new and improved fighter.” She took each chemo treatment as a battle, one which she always won, despite fatigue, aching bones and swollen ankles. “I was fighting for my life and I wanted to win.”

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Her struggle wasn’t solitary. She cites words of wisdom from her late grandparents, passages and quotes from books, her parents who were always by her side and some friends who stepped up to the plate as sources of strength while she was conquering the disease.

Today, as a champion, Boyajian wants other women to know that “things will get harder before they get easier, but they do get better.”