Longport Woman Shares Personal Melanoma Story In Hopes of Raisin

Longport Woman Shares Personal Melanoma Story In Hopes of Raising Awareness

Posted: Updated:
LONGPORT, N.J. -

 A local woman is sharing her story in hopes of raising awareness for melanoma awareness.

"I assumed it was so easy to take care of.”

Sadly, Tara Miller was wrong about the bump she discovered behind her ear.

"It was starting to hurt to eat. I thought it was just kind of from my earring or something," she said.

Instead, the lump was something much more serious than the 29-year-old would have ever imagined.

"I went to a doctor who ordered a CT, and it came back as something suspicious. So they did a needle biopsy and that came back as melanoma."

Melanoma, which is one of the most serious forms of skin cancer, affecting young adults, ages 25 to 29.

The diagnosis was a shock to the Longport, New Jersey resident who always made a point of getting yearly skin checks, and applying sunscreen whenever she went outside.

"I was like, how did I get melanoma? It felt like a lump. Isn’t melanoma in the skin? But later down the road they figured it was actually a mole that started up here," she said.

Equally surprised, was her twin sister, Lauren.

“What started as a mole in the past, 11 months has also turned into 14 brain tumors and four spots in her lungs and lymph nodes,” Lauren said. "I think the perception of melanoma is just something on the skin and maybe you can have it removed, but it's a much more serious and deadly form of cancer that I think people underestimate."

Despite having stage four melanoma, Lauren says her sister, is upbeat and positive, for the most part.

"I think ever since she found out, her reaction has been to worry about everyone else cause she's so strong," said Lauren.

Tara is receiving ground breaking treatments for her condition including BRAF and MEK inhibitors, along with a new melanoma drug called, PD-1.

A lawyer by trade, Tara has started a foundation that she hopes will help educate people about this deadly disease and raise much needed dollars for additional research.

"I mean the research isn't there. You're trying to make decisions based on either unfinished studies or studies there haven't been enough of. We kind of thought this was something we could do, where we could change something," Tara said.

Last month, the Tara Miller Melanoma Foundation held its first, "Make the Best of it Bash!"

More than 700 people attended.

Everyone was deeply moved, including her parents.

"Tara was on top of the world. She passed the bar, became a lawyer, got a job and was ready to move on with a great life and this hits you," said her father George, "this cancer is strong, quick, devastating, and I don’t think people realize what a fight you have on your hands when you have this form of cancer,” said father George Miller.

To hear Tara explain what she's been through puts it all in perspective.

"It all started a week after I was diagnosed. I had my first surgery July 17th, which was a diagnostic surgery. And then I had three craniotomies, four rounds of Gamma Knife Radiation, six weeks of Proton therapy, three weeks of whole brain radiation, four rounds of ippyloom mad, which is an immune therapy drug,” Tara said.

And, she suffers from short term memory loss.

Her older sister, Kristi, is amazed by Tara's strength.

"She's the strongest person, any of us know. I don’t think the family would be as strong right now if she didn’t set the tone," said Kristi.

And her message is a strong one!

"I mean, I grew up at the shore, going to the beach, going to the store. You just have to recognize the warnings are serious. I think when you are younger, you don’t realize how serious the statistics are and you think they won’t affect you," Tara said.

You can visit Tara's Foundation website here: http://taramillerfoundation.org

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