Savannah woman delayed breast cancer diagnosis, treatment

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Latasha Holliman’s family and friends wish they could write a different ending to her story.

That rewrite might have included her completed romance and family romance, finally landing with an agent who would defend her lush prose and complicated characters. Or, be the first to hold her sister’s baby. It would certainly have involved her as she got older as she watched her three daughters grow into the brilliant, fierce women they are already showing signs of becoming.

But on April 6, “Tasha” Holliman died of aggressive breast cancer, with a mixture of HR-positive and HR-negative cancer cells. She discovered the lump in February 2020, but because she worked as a freelance writer and part-time teacher, she had no health insurance. Not knowing where to turn, she did not immediately see a doctor until four months later. By then, the cancer had metastasized. Holliman has used every weapon in his arsenal to fight the disease – a macrobiotic diet, a powerful and humorous blog, and finally chemotherapy.

In March, when doctors said there was nothing more they could do, her mother, Arnita Harris, remembered Holliman saying, “I’m fine, but I’m worried about my family.

True to her habits, Holliman has always been mothering.

In reality, Brandi Benson, author of “The Enemy in Me” about her own battle with Ewing’s sarcoma, often referred to as Holliman, “Mother.”

Following:Savannah’s mother and daughter find strength together as they battle breast cancer diagnoses

Following:2021 Breast Cancer Awareness Events

“She was – I can’t believe what I’m saying was – the epitome of a lady,” Benson said. “Honest, loyal, nurturing, generous…” the adjectives spread as she spoke of the fellow writer she had met during her graduate studies at Savannah College of Art and Design.

Harris laughed when she learned of Benson’s nickname for her daughter. “Even though she was the middle child, she was almost like the big sister – always. She spent a lot of time leading it [three] sisters around. She mothered everyone. She loved telling people what to do and expected people to listen to her.

It was easy to lean on her, according to Ariel Felton, a Savannah Morning News contributor, because “she always had a moment for her friends.”

Following:Savannah breast cancer survivor talks about diagnosis, support from family and colleagues

Felton and Holliman also met as SCAD classmates in a fiction writing class. “During one of our review workshops, she wrote this really beautiful and haunting short story about a mom going through postpartum depression. It was written that way that leads to a shocking conclusion, and I remember how we got so into that character’s mind and – it was really beautiful. This is how we became friends.

The two women quickly served as “accountability partners”, sharing their writings, making sure they made time for their craft.

“I thought I was Type A,” Felton said. “She would call me at five in the morning to make sure I was writing. It was less about comments than encouraging each other.

Following:Savannah woman’s dream team against breast cancer challenged by COVID pandemic

Felton recommended Holliman as a potential writer for Beacon magazine when I was associate editor. After our first brainstorming session on education – a topic Holliman was familiar with and passionate about – I knew she was a babysitter. She challenged preconceived notions, questioned approaches and sought solutions.

Her first article, The Teacher Burnout Epidemic, examined the conditions that led nearly half of all new teachers to leave the profession within the first five years. She explored how GED programs could help people move from poverty to self-sufficiency. In the first month of the pandemic, Holliman took a close look at COVID-19’s early and devastating toll on people of color.

We had been working together for a year when she turned down a mission. “I have breast cancer,” she said in a neutral tone, and on Zoom we sat in silence, glancing at each other.

I kept his texts and emails, just like Felton.

Her blog, so vulnerable and humorous, is no longer online, but Harris said Holliman wrote it so that others could understand what she was dealing with. “She wanted people to see her fight.”

Due to treatment costs, Holliman and her daughters returned to live with her mother during her illness. During those months, Harris said they spent the evenings having in-depth conversations about everything from movies and music to books and God. But the subject they returned to most often was his love of family.

“She never realized how special she was,” said Harris.

Benson agreed. “She had such great things to accomplish, so much more inside her, and I think she never got the break she so deserved.”

Holliman’s story doesn’t end there, however. Her bow runs through the lives of her daughters – Teri, 13; Hayley, 9 years old; and Alexandria, 2.

“They are strong,” said Harris, “just like their mother.”

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Today’s issue has a pink envelope focused on breast cancer awareness articles and a listing of events for fundraising and education. These stories are also available online at SavannahNow.com/Lifestyles/.

After today, the calendar of events will take place every Sunday in the Arts & Culture section.


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