Diagnosed at 39, Stage 2 Infiltrating Carcinoma. Diagnosed at 49, Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC)
Meet Tammi, Mother, Survivor, Wildflower
I was 39 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer -Stage II infiltrating carcinoma and 49 with breast cancer -Stage IV metastatic breast cancer.
It was May 2010 when my world was shattered. I had divorced my husband the previous year and felt totally free for the first time in my life. I was healthy, loved to exercise, and was eating healthy on most days. I was working as a nurse in a pediatric office in Littleton, Colorado. My son was a couple of years away from graduating high school. Life was great.
I have a family history of cancer and I started performing self breast exams in my twenties. In April 2010, I felt a lump in my breast and saw a dimple over the spot where I felt the lump. As a nurse, I knew the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, but for some reason my mind wouldn't accept it. As I think back, I felt like I couldn't have breast cancer because I didn't have health insurance. After the divorce, I couldn't afford it.
But God made a way. I qualified for Komen funds, which saved my life. I was blessed to have the best surgeon and oncologist on my team. They gave me all the information I needed to make an informed decision. Sadly, I was miles away from family and friends, so I went into deep prayer and made the decision to have my breasts removed.
As I sat on the exam table and told the surgeon my decision, I felt strong and sure. But as soon as he exited the room, I broke down and cried. It wasn't fair. I was the girl who raised awareness for breast cancer survivors, and now I was that girl. Ironically, five years later, my sister would insist that I write a book detailing my journey. I hesitated in doing so because it was my personal business, but she hit me with, "It's about giving God the glory." So, I self-published the book, "Seriously God, Am I That Girl?"
Writing the book ended up being my therapy. I poured out all the details regarding chemotherapy (its side effects) and my reasons for stopping it and stopping hormone therapy as well. I completed two of the four rounds of chemo and stopped tamoxifen after a few months. On chemo, I felt like I was having a heart attack, and regarding tamoxifen, I just didn't like the side effects. I did end up removing my ovaries.
In 2012, my PET scan was clean, and I moved to Atlanta to be closer to family. I found an oncologist and in 2015 was given the "all clear." I was determined to take advantage of my second chance at life. I worked and traveled to many places that were on my travel list. Since I loved traveling so much, I became a travel nurse. Again, life was great! I took an assignment in Dallas and Tucson.
While in Tucson, I had this feeling of wanting to help women in a different way. I was ready to leave nursing after twenty years and try something new.
I love my family, but moving back home was not part of my life plan. We have our plans and God has his. So, in September 2019, I moved back home to Mobile and opened a painting studio, Her Timeout, in January 2020. The stress I was under opening this business saved my life. A lymph node in my neck began to swell. This one symptom would lead to an urgent care visit, PCP visit, scans, oncology visit, and a biopsy. The result, stage IV breast cancer.
I was ready for God to take me. I couldn't. I didn't deserve this. I was a good person and this wasn't fair. My family was so concerned that they threatened to come break into my apartment if I didn't come out.
After two weeks, I started chemo. My new oncologist had read my old medical records and he was ready for me. No quitting. He was stern. He told me that he could treat me, but I had to do my part. I wanted to see my future grandchildren, so I put on my big girl panties.
I was ready this time for the side effects. I started taking daily vitamins, B vitamins, plain, coconut milk yogurt, raw garlic, and drinking plenty of water. I meditate and do yoga.
This time around, I'm grateful to be home with family and friends. Instead of writing another book, as they suggested, I decided to blog about this journey. The title, of the blog is "Her Timeout." I honestly believe that when God gave me this name back in Tucson, it was not intended for a painting studio, it was his way of getting my attention to slow down. He was trying to save my life.
What's next? I have to complete 6 rounds of chemo; less if my scan comes back clean, per my oncologist. Then monthly, hormonal injections until my oncologist "says so." I'm ready to walk in divine health because I deserve the best.
I'm focused on healing my body and getting back to life! There's a big world out there to explore. God placed a work in me when I was born, and I must continue my journey to fulfill my purpose.
I have too many dreams to give up!