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Woman battles breast cancer and COVID-19 while inspiring others

TaLicka Dunlap is sharing her battle with what her family calls a "triple threat."

INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis woman is sharing her battle with what her family calls a triple threat as she fights a deadly disease. 

TaLicka Dunlap is smack dab in the middle of her treatment for breast cancer. During October Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dunlap joined dozens of others for a cancer awareness photo shoot in Indianapolis.

Dunlap has one of the most infectious smiles you will ever see. When you meet her, you wouldn't know she's fighting cancer unless she told you. That's because she spends her days encouraging other patients. Dunlap is usually the life of the party and brightens up the room. She is also a fashion guru who loves dressing up and always sporting a new hair style.

"I miss my hair and my clothes," Dunlap said. "Sometimes, I dress up and don't even have any place to go."

So there is nothing shy about TaLicka and her bubbly personality. She's not only known for her love of fashion but also for how she loves to mentor young girls.

Then, life changed for Dunlap on Feb. 11, 2020 when doctors diagnosed the 46-year-old with aggressive triple negative breast cancer thanks to her own self-check.

"For me to get sick and get cancer, I know what it has done to people. I've lost several family members," Dunlap said.

Dunlap witnessed cancer claim her grandmother's life and also her father. But like her mother, who is a 13-year cancer survivor, Dunlap put on her boxing gloves, determined to fight for her life.

Credit: TaLicka Dunlap
TaLicka Dunlap and her mother.

"I figured early detection is the key. I was hoping it was early. I was ready to just take it on," Dunlap said.

But then came COVID-19, which left her with a blood clot and a dangerously delayed surgery. Doctors told her family that having COVID-19 was too risky for surgery. What made it even more challenging was TaLicka's mother was also diagnosed with COVID-19. Her mom had been serving as one of her primary caretakers during the cancer diagnosis.

After beating COVID-19, Dunlap continued to go to church, continued smiling and even packed and gave meals to the needy — all while she's continued her treatment.

"I am not going to let it beat me," Dunlap said. "I am going to get through this because there is a lot that comes with just having cancer."

That includes financial struggles, so her family started a GoFundMe page to help with her living expenses. The fundraiser couldn't come at a better time, since Dunlap just learned that her job may even be in jeopardy.

Doctors have told Dunlap they have never had a more positive experience with a cancer patient. That's also evidence when she goes to her chemo treatment. The medical staff is not surprised when they see Dunlap speaking to other patients and leaving them with words of encouragement.

"I just try to stay positive. I do have my moments. But at the end of the day, I know that this too shall pass," Dunlap said.

Dunlap will finish her last round of chemo during October Breast Cancer Awareness Month, all while promoting early detection and encouraging women to conduct breast self-exams at home on a regular basis.