My Doctors Found A Tumor While Pregnant — But It Turned Out To Be Worse

A mother of four was misdiagnosed.

My Doctor’s Found Cancer While I Was Pregnant David Prado Perucha | Shutterstock

Today, I’m a proud wife, mother of four, ordained minister, writer and advocate. But I didn’t always think I would make it here.

I was just 21 years old and getting an ultrasound for my first baby when the medical team saw something odd in the image. They said it was a fibroid tumor, a noncancerous growth made of uterine muscle.

Fortunately, I delivered a healthy baby boy.

Fast forward a few months after giving birth, and I learned I had been misdiagnosed. I was actually living with peritoneal mesothelioma — an incredibly rare form of cancer usually caused by exposure to asbestos.


The doctors told me this was an aggressive cancer with no prospects of a cure. They weren’t sure where I was exposed and were shocked that I even had this type of cancer at such a young age. With this initial diagnosis, the news I received from my oncologist wasn’t promising. 

To say I was shocked, angry, and confused was an understatement.

What followed over the last 15 years is an astonishing journey where I learned a great deal about myself, the culture surrounding cancer survivorship, and how to ask (and answer) the hard questions:

  1. How do I talk about the "C" word?
  2. Why me?
  3. Why is representation important?
  4. How do I find strength during difficult times?

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Cancer is not something we grew up speaking about in our family.

In fact, the "C" word is a taboo topic in many homes, especially in the Black community. I never realized what a true disservice we do to ourselves and our families when we refuse to talk about it.

Looking back, I have a different perspective on why it was a taboo topic. It was and still is an uncomfortable thing to talk about, but society has made it easier to have the cancer discussion in the Black community.

That is until I found myself facing rare cancer with few resources that reflected my cancer survivorship journey.

Peritoneal mesothelioma is a disease most common in retired coal miners and factory workers. I was a young, Black mother and none of the resources I sought were representative of someone like me.


The information I found showed pictures of older, Caucasian men and talked about balancing length of life with quality of life. That was not a choice I was ready to make. I realized I had to become my own advocate by seeking out other sources of information.

Thankfully, despite growing up in a community where we did not discuss the "C" word because we didn’t know how to discuss it, my close family members embraced my cancer journey and helped me find those new resources. With their help, I was able to seek out the best care, in my own city!

I also learned how important it is to talk about cancer, so others can feel less alone. I’ve chosen to speak openly about my experience.

Recently, I shared my story as part of Bristol Myers Squibb’s Survivorship Today, a series that aims to help advance our collective understanding of what it's like to live with cancer today.


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With my cancer journey starting just as I became a first-time mom, I found myself wondering how I was going to juggle it all.

How do I take care of my son AND myself? What will happen to him? Why now and why me?

Like many mothers, Black women are inclined to take care of the needs of others first, which can lead to their own health taking a backseat. We call this "The Superwoman Complex." 

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was neglecting my own health. My mental health started to decline greatly. I realized how having cancer impacted my mental health greatly and caused anxiety, depression, and even PTSD.


It took time to understand how important it is to ask for help so that I can carve out time to care for myself — not just physically, but also emotionally and spiritually.

My family really came through for me over the last 15+ years by helping me to find the best medical care that was out there. My mother, my grandmother, and my husband were all there for me when I needed them to help me deal with the stress and to provide care for me and my baby son.

They helped me work through the hard question of "Why me?"

I was blessed to have my family so close at hand to help me, but another thing I realized is that "family" does not always mean the same thing as "blood relative." 


A support system can include close friends, co-workers, neighbors, and even support groups such as the Mesothelioma Center support group which helped me connect with other cancer survivors.

The most important thing I had through all of my cancer survivorship journey was hope. I also drew inspiration and hope from other peoples’ stories. This is why I continue to share mine and support others who travel this same path.

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One of the challenges I alluded to earlier was finding information about peritoneal mesothelioma that I could relate to.

Throughout my cancer survivorship journey, I felt isolated and alone — especially because I couldn’t find any other young, Black mothers living with my disease.


I have met many cancer survivors over the last 15+ years who made an impact on me throughout my journey and gave me hope. But I also wish I could connect with other young, Black mothers about the specific struggles I was dealing with.

Today, there are more discussions around representation in cancer survivorship, but more work is needed.

I recently spoke about this in the Survivorship Today "In Her Shoes: Life as a Black Woman Cancer Survivor" panel. I hope others will recognize that by sharing their story, they may help another cancer survivor feel less alone.


The one thing I always kept in mind throughout my cancer journey was the importance of staying positive.

The first doctors who diagnosed me gave me 18 months to live. The ones who treated me said that I would never be able to have more children. Now, I am a mother of four, a minister, and an advocate.

Throughout my entire journey, I refused to let negativity hold me back. I surrounded myself with a positive and supportive care team. My faith is what got me throughout the last 15+ years.

Today, I am eager to share my experience with anyone who will listen, because I want everyone out there to know that you are not alone. By drawing on my own strength and the strength of my support team, I have been able to survive and thrive long after the big "C" word entered my life.


I hope that my story can inspire others out there who get hit with the scary news and those hard questions to not give up. Those questions have answers. Just be strong in pursuing them.

Learn more about my story on

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Tamron Little is a cancer survivor, advocate, writer and speaker who shares her story to inspire and spread hope to others.