A woman stricken by stage IV breast cancer is speaking out after she says multiple doctors lied to her about the results of her mammograms, leading her cancer to spread undetected and untreated for years.
Taleshia Chandler, the first lady at Cedar Street Baptist Church of God in Church Hill, Virginia, says she got mammograms in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Each time, Dr. Bigg at the Allison Breast Center in the West End told her that her results were normal and that the white areas that showed up on her right breast were nothing to be concerned about.
“I was told it was calcification. I had no reason to question or doubt it,” Taleshia says. “Three months later, I was told I had stage four breast cancer. I couldn’t understand it.”
It came as a shock when Taleshia was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. She still had no reason to suspect that her previous mammograms had shown signs of cancer, but it seemed strange that it had gotten so bad so quickly. Not only did Taleshia have the disease, but it had already metastasized to her bones and her liver. And it continued spreading despite treatment, making its way to her brain in 2018.
“That’s when I become more frightened,” Chandler said. “I had four holes drilled in my head and radiation treatment,” Taleshia says. “I’ve taken more medicine than I ever thought I would before I turned 50.”
Currently, Taleshia’s cancer is labeled “stable,” which means it doesn’t appear to be growing or spreading, at least for the time being. All the same, Taleshia still has to undergo chemotherapy every three weeks, as well as taking a week of oral chemo drugs about twice a month.
“I don’t want to die, I want to be able to see my children get married, I want to be able to play with my grandchildren, I want to grow old with my husband,” she says.
In 2020, Taleshia was hit with worse news than she ever expected. She wouldn’t have thought anything could be worse than having stage IV cancer, but when her friend sent her a news report about other women having their mammograms misread and their cancers missed at the same breast center where it happened to her, Taleshia’s heart sank. Hearing others’ stories of misread mammograms prompted her to take her past mammogram results to another radiologist for a second opinion.
“He was like, ‘No, it wasn’t just there in 2015, it was also there in 2013,'” says Taleshia. “That means that in 2013 somebody looked me in my eye, looked me in my face, and said, “You’re good to go; we’ll see you next year,’ and then I came back the following year [and] the cancer was still there, and I was told ‘You’re good to go.’ Year after year I was lied to.”
Taleshia says the second radiologist told her that her cancer should have been caught in 2013 and that she likely would have been able to have surgery and move on with her life cancer-free. “It was at a very early stage at that point.”
Dr. Bigg‘s license has been suspended, and complaints have been made to the Virginia Department of Health Professions, but for Taleshia and at least seven other women with misread mammograms, time can’t be rewound.
“I wish that I could go back in time, but I can’t,” she says.
But despite her fears and the dismal situation she’s been placed in, Taleshia has worked hard to place her trust in God and to engage herself in creative activities that have helped her come to terms with her disease. She has already written two books about her cancer journey and also penned a song about it.
Now she hopes that her story can help other women not be afraid to trust their instincts and get a second opinion. She also hopes to bring Dr. Biggs to justice for his life-altering mistakes.
“I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to any other woman that is my main goal. I don’t want any other woman to go through this,” says Taleshia.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?