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Meet Tina Farrell: Surviving Dr. Fata and Staying Positive

In the midst of her third bout of triple negative breast cancer, Tina Farrell feels like she has finally found the support and help she needs to stay positive and “be a Tigger, not an Eeyore,” thanks to local support groups and the New Day Foundation.

Her most recent cancer diagnosis on Sept. 4, 2015, came exactly eight years (to the day) after her initial diagnosis by the notorious Dr. Fata. However, this time Tina is in good hands with specialists at U of M, and New Day is helping the family by providing mortgage payments for three months and gift cards for groceries.  Tina’s husband and children were also attended our first Holiday Giving Party while she recovered from chemotherapy.

“With New Day helping, it took all the worry away so I could concentrate on my treatments,” Tina said. “I try to stay positive, I try to take it one day at a time, and I try to set a good example for my kids. My 25-yr-old son is getting married this July and it’s my goal to be there. He told me, ‘You’re a pro at this, you’ll be fine.’”

Excerpts from the Victim Impact Statement of Tina Farrell

“My name is Tina Farrell and I was a patient of Dr. Fata’s from September 2008 to August 2013. I was diagnosed in September 2008 with triple negative breast cancer, a rare aggressive breast cancer that only 15% of breast cancer patients get. I was only 42 years old.”

“In 2008 I had a mastectomy with the start of reconstruction and started chemo with Dr. Fata a few weeks later. During my six months of chemo, I researched triple negative cancer and was terrified – many women didn’t live past 5 years. It is a deadly disease.”

After repeatedly asking, and even begging, for follow-up radiation, Tina was told by Dr. Fata:

“You are over-reacting about your triple negative status, you had mastectomy, you have no tissue left, you don’t need radiation!

Although she felt strongly that she needed radiation, she never asked him again. He was a highly regarded oncologist, and she trusted him. Two years after her initial cancer diagnosis, Tina felt a lump on the top of her implant in her reconstructed breast.

“It was the same cancer I had before, the deadly kind. I asked Dr. Fata, ‘How could this happen?’ He smiled at me and said, ‘I knew you were going to ask me that. It just happens sometimes.’ I had to start over: 3 more surgeries, 16 more chemo treatments and 37 radiation treatments. The chemo was horrible. I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t work, I couldn’t participate in my four kids’ activities; I missed out on a lot and I felt like I couldn’t go on.”

In 2013, Tina was five years out from her original diagnosis and followed up with Dr. Fata in May. Shortly thereafter, he was arrested for fraud, prompting Tina to find a new doctor at U of M.  Here, she learned that negligence by Dr. Fata, in the form of failure to provide radiation after her initial surgery, had contributed to the reoccurrence of her cancer.

“I was uneducated about cancer in 2008, I trusted [Dr. Fata] and thought he was taking care of me. They left cancer in my body and it grew and grew for two years until I found it myself in 2010. I walked around all that time thinking I was cancer free – and the cancer was growing inside me.”

“He took a whole year away from me, a year I shouldn’t have had to go through chemo treatments and surgeries again, a year where I suffered, my whole family was scared I wasn’t going to make it through and we were financially devastated with medical bills. I couldn’t work for almost two years because I was so sick during this cancer recurrence ordeal I could have lost my house, my family could have lost everything. My husband had to work two jobs so we could make it.” 

Today, Tina is once again facing breast cancer and chemotherapy, but is filled with a positive outlook. She regularly visits support groups in person and through social media, and is grateful for the financial support that New Day is able to provide during her treatment.

Tina Farrell celebrated with her husband and children at Dr. Fata’s 2013 Survivor Day Celebration in Clarkston at The Healing Garden. Dr. Fata was arrested for fraud three months later.


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