Ending a Very Pink Month With a Trip To Camp

Whew this has been a pretty crazy month this far. Although I didn’t really think it was possible, my world got a little more pink over the past few weeks. I can tell you right out of the gate, I was pushed completely out of my comfort zone at every pass in being asked to speak at several local breast cancer events in West Michigan. Each request came with a certain level of anxiety. You know; the sweaty hands, knot in your stomach kind of anxiety, but I took a deep breath and said sure, with a nervous but big smile on my face like I promised I would. I cannot help but think back to my very first Chemo which happens to be the day I connected with my now very dear friend Liz. She had been following my blog and had just started volunteering with the American Cancer Society, so she stopped into my very first chemo to introduce herself…. And we just connected instantly as we share quite similar passions and goals in raising awareness for a cause that is near and dear to our hearts. Liz was about 2 years out from her breast cancer diagnosis on the day I met her, yet there she was volunteering to help women just like her facing the hardest battles of their lives, and she was still recovering from and dealing with the after affects of her own battle. We shared story’s, our inspirations, and our aspirations in those few short hours. Where I was comfortably stepping out of my comfort zones from behind a computer screen, Liz was stepping out of hers in the public eye, as she was jumping onto a leadership committee with ACS, and she had already begun sharing her story publicly at ACS events and at her Daughters Sorority at Hope College. I remember telling Liz that I had made a promise that I would say “yes” when I wanted to run, if it meant that I was stepping out of my comfort zone in a way that helped women in my shoes, but I was very quick to state that public speaking would be where I drew the line. I have always hated being the center of attention and the idea of standing up in front of a large Crowd to speak has always terrified me! I can still picture her face as she the looked at me, smiled, and said you will be surprised at what you will do after something like this. Looking back I think she knew, or at least she saw the very same spark of crazy in my eyes as she did her own, because she was absolutely correct! I did make the promise that I would accept each challenge and step out of my comfort zone for the greater good from the day I was diagnosed. What might be somewhat surprising is that it’s harder for me to openly and publicity share my story, than it is to bare my scars and deepest inner thoughts, fears, and emotions, in photos and blog posts. I got my toes wet by sharing my story at Farm to Table Harvest Event for Revive and Thrive and of course sharing my story with the Bee Brave community following the Bee Brave 5K, however I stepped it up a notch by doing 3 news interviews for both breast cancer events and my own campaign, being featured in the Spectrum Health Ad campaign that launched this month in the forms of Outdoor boards, online, print, digital ads, and the biggest step…. Being honored as the keynote speaker at this year’s Wine and Wig Gala put on By ACS, Komen, Gilda’s, and Van Andel Institute and speaking as part of an expert panel at Spectrum Health’s Candid Conversations event with my medical team in front of 1200 people.





screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-11-25-15-pmThe Wine and Wig event, by far had me the most panicked as I wrote at least 6 different takes on my story and in the end felt very ill prepared. But it that moment things clicked into place a calmness came over me before I even got up the the podium. I think I realized what an honor it was to have been given such an amazing platform to share not only my story but my mission with some pretty big players in the breast cancer community, and the response was quite beautiful. There were a lot of tears which was really not my goal, but it means a lot that my story was able to touch people on a level that brought even the strong men in the room to tears and compelled them to approach me afterwards. It was quite an amazing night that almost culminated all that I have been through and all that I am hoping to achieve. And you know what? I surprised myself. I really struggled with the first few events that I spoke at this month, and I did panic a bit inside with each and every speech, however I have also learned so much about myself and grown in ways that are hard to explain which is something I did not anticipate. Above all, I again feel like I am right where I need to be, and I am doing exactly what I was meant to do. A few weeks ago my nerves were getting the best of me as I told my husband that public speaking just is NOT for me, but oddly I don’t regret any of it and I think I would do it all again. Plus I believe it was the very best lead in to what I have in store next… A camp for young cancer survivors.

This camp is a once and a lifetime adventure camp for young cancer survivors in Maui, that my dear friend Jessica lined up for me. (Love you dear) The camp is fully funded by The Athletes for Cancer Foundation and The Cassie Hines Shoes Cancer Foundation out of Washington, Michigan sponsored all of my travel expenses. We found out about the camp a few months ago, but I didn’t actually get off the waiting list until early Oct. With all the craziness this month, it has not even hit me that I am actually leaving for Hawaii in less 10 hours. However as I… very last minute plan the week for my family, and start the packing process, I am getting pretty excited to get away from my reality and feel the sun on my skin again. The camp is called Camp Koru, and it’s geared to empower young cancer survivors to take their lives back after cancer by jumping out of their comfort zones and conquering challenges like surfing, and stand up paddling in Hawaii, which sounds quite amazing to me!

I really cannot express how excited I am I am for this camp. I know it will push me out of my comfort zone a little more, but in a good way as I have not yet conquered my fear of group sharing. However I know that it will be life-changing to meet others my age who understand all of the challenges, fears, and emotions, that come from from being diagnosed with cancer as a young adult. I will be off the grid for most of the week, but expect a full report when I return.



False Expectations and Survivorship

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One year ago today I finished my radiation treatments.
For 9 months I had been counting down to this very day, the day that I would walk out of Lemmon Holton Cancer Pavilion knowing my hardest treatments were complete and my cancer was behind me. I thought this day was going bring a since of accomplishment, joy and relief, but boy did I have another thing coming.

One year ago today may have marked the end of my intense chemo and radiation treatments, however it also marked the first day of my survivorship or what I like to call my “now what” phase. Which just happens to be longest and by far the hardest phase of my cancer journey. I walked out those doors feeling anxious, fearful, and worried and all of a sudden the weight of the world was on was again on my shoulders, but now in ways that I had never felt before. For 9 months I knew exactly what I had to do to fight my cancer. I saw my oncologist every 3 weeks, my Chemo Nurse, and my Oncology Nurse practitioner regularly, and I saw my infusion nurse nearly everyday. I was being monitored very closely and if anything came up, it was addressed on the spot. As my Oncologist hugged me and said I’ll see you in 3 months, I put on my best smile, but it was hard to fight back the tears that were filling my eyes. There were no tests, no scans, nothing to confirm that the treatments had worked, nothing to assure me that the positive cancer margin that I had left after my bilateral mastectomy were now gone, and nothing to comfort this fear. We were just trusting the science behind chemo and radiation therapy alone and hoping for the best. At this point both my oncologist and my oncology nurse told me that I needed to pay very very close attention to my body and call them right away if anything new was happening because they would get me in, in a moments notice. They said I needed to become the hypochondriac that they were trying so hard to help me become over the course of my treatments, but now I couldn’t help but feel it was all on me. What if I missed something? What if I misinterpreted a sign or most importantly what if there were no signs at all? My mind was racing with fears and concerns. Did my treatments work, did the fact that they deceased my recommended chemo regimen by 25% (because my body couldn’t handle it) decrease the effectiveness of my treatments, what if going through IVF and putting a very high dose of hormones back into my body was a bad idea, was I ever going to feel like me again? As my mind filled with fear and doubt, my anxiety was going through the roof and an internal battle began in my mind. After all I was supposed to be happy, I was supposed to feel better, I was supposed to be putting the bad, the hard, and the scary behind me and I was above all, I was supposed to be getting my life back. In the beginning you are prepared for everything that is about to happen to you and you are told, it is going to be a hard year, but you assume things will get better when that “bad year” comes to a close and the worst of it is over. Unfortunately despite what those on the outside think, this is not what happens as a cancer patient finishes treatments.

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Initially it seems like a lot of physical work, or it did for me. My body was and is just plain beaten down after chemo/radiation treatments and surgeries. I didn’t have the energy to do anything and even walking across the room made me faint, weak, and winded. I struggled and still struggle to lift my left arm above my head because of auxiliary web cording from my mastectomy surgery, and to top it off I was now starting a 10-15 year hormone therapy regime that would cause severe and debilitating bone and joint pain, as well as osteopenia, which is the early on-set of Osteoporosis; when your bones begin to deteriorate because your body is being stripped of all hormones. I was now facing another year of surgeries including several reconstructive surgeries and the surgery that would forever take my ability to bare the second child I was planning for  before my life was turned upside down. The after effects of being medically forced into menopause were also starting to become more then I expected them to be. The headaches, the night sweats, the hot flashes, the pain, and the biggest challenge of losing all closeness and intimacy with my husband at the age of 33 bothered me more and more every day. That’s when it hit me. Nothing about me was the same and it never would be again, despite what everyone around me thought. When I stood in front of the Mirror I did not see Tammy, or even any glimmer of the Tammy I had always been. Rather, I saw someone who had been broken, someone frail, defeated, and most of all someone full of pain, sadness, and fear. It wasn’t just what happened externally in loosing all of the body parts that made me feel like a women and filling my once young looking body with scars because that part I had excepted, or even the weight gain or loss of elasticity in my skin due to the medically induced menopause that were the biggest changes; the biggest changes happened within me and that is something you can only see by looking beyond my smile. I could no longer relate to normal daily conversations with family and friends because cancer became my everything. I could no longer think about the future with delight and anticipation because instead I wondered if I would even be here to see the milestones that my daughter would achieve. I really had lost the ability have fun, the ability to just be “me”, or even the ability to just live life. But the hardest part still to this day, is knowing that the awful “c” word would always be lurking in my world. That no matter what do, no matter how I eat, and no matter how I live, my cancer could always come back and take me from my family.

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If dealing with all of this isn’t enough, I had to add on the hardest aspect of all. I now had to figure out how to navigate through all of this and still put on a smile on my face because to the outside world I was expected to feel better, to be happy, and to be me again. I was supposed to be picking up the pieces of my former life and moving forward with a me that I didn’t know yet. Everywhere I went, I heard “oh my gosh you look so great”. “You must be feeling so much better now that your treatments are done”. Every time I heard this, I couldn’t help but be reminded of how wrong that statement was, I couldn’t help but think of how much cancer has taken from me, and how much it is still impacting my life and my mind.

Over the past year I have began to work through all of this, but it has not been an easy process and I cannot say that this process or this work will ever be complete as it too seems to be a very long journey in itself. I would say that my relationships have changed in both good ways and not so good ways. I do feel that in some ways cancer has brought me closer to some and even strengthened some bonds, however I am realizing that I am somewhat withdrawn from even those who used to be closest to me, because what I am going through mentally and emotionally post cancer is something that someone who hasn’t been through cancer themselves could never understand, which creates a certain level of isolation in itself. Every pain, cough, or change in my blood work triggers a fear that my cancer is back and every time I look back on photos from the past year and a half I am reminded of the time that I was not able to be the mommy I wanted to be for Corryn. I do my best to then remind myself that I was doing what I had to do, to ensure I will be here to see her grow into a beautiful women, but the truth is my cancer could still come back. I received a comment that drives home what we young cancer patients already know to be true. When you are diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 40, your cancer is different then if you are diagnosed over the age of 55. It is stronger, more aggressive, faster growing, and it is far more likely to return and metastasize in our bodies. A women commented on my page by saying that she was in a group of young cancer patients 12 years ago and not one of those young women are alive today. This thought haunts me and sadly it always will.

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But on the positive side, I have also learned more about myself over the past year, then I have over my entire lifetime and I truly do believe that I didn’t become the person I was meant to be, until cancer brought me to my knees. With all of the sadness, fear, and anxiety I am learning to accept and even embrace the new me and most of the time, I even  like the new me better. I have always been a very optimistic and positive minded person and I have tried to approach my new life with cancer in the same way. With each day, I make a little more progress, and I am learning that even on the days that take me a few steps backwards, there is always something that can be learned from those steps. For me, it took letting go of what I cannot control and accepting that my cancer could return and take me from my family, before I could actually put that fear aside long enough to live in the moment again and actually smile from my soul. There are still days that this fear does consume me, but on those days I try to listen to my dear friend Vicki and have compassion for myself, and most of all, I try to allow myself to feel what I am feeling for as long as I need, and then I dust myself off and put my game face back on. Looking back I am still not sure I would take any of my cancer journey back, because of all of the life lessons and self-growth it has brought my way, however, if I could make those who don’t love or appreciate their own lives, see just how lucky they are or even just take away some of the fears that lurk in my own mind I would jump at the chance. With that being said, if I could offer any bit of advice to someone in my shoes; it would be to keep your heart and your mind open through your entire journey. Don’t fixate on getting the life you had back, but rather open yourself up to seeing the life you were meant to lead. Don’t worry about the day you will be taken, but rather try to live in the moment today. And above all if your new life with cancer has you feeling sad, fearful, or anxious in ways that others around you could never understand, give yourself that day to feel it. You… We have earned those days, and we need those days in order to get back to the good days. If I could offer any words of advice to a spouse or caretaker or even a friend on the outside, I would tell you to remember that just because we cancer warriors are starting to look healthy on the outside with budding hair and eyebrows it doesn’t mean that we are even a little bit ok on the inside or even that we are “better” at all. Cancer is not something you get through and move on from. It is something that we did not choose but happened anyway, and worst of all it is something that will linger over us causing fear of the unknown, long-term pain, and even some level of sadness and loss for the rest of our lives.

#mypersonalpinktime #oneyearpastradiationmilestone #cancersucks





Sign My Petition

Breast Cancer Happens Under 50:
Help Me Fight For Early Detection In Younger Women

Forgotten Fighters | Tammy Myers from Tammy Myers on Vimeo. Click here to sign the petition.

It’s official. The Forgotten Fighters campaign is live. Please take a moment to watch the video, sigh the petition and share this link with everyone you know.

Breast Cancer Happens under the age of 50. In fact women in their 20’s and 30’s are being diagnosed with breast cancer every day. The harsh reality is that Breast cancer is not limited to those who have a family history, high body weight, lower activity level, consume more alcohol, or smoke. It can attack any woman, young or old, at any age. This overlooked group—younger women in their 20’s and 30’s—are typically diagnosed with much more aggressive and further advanced forms of breast cancer. It is astonishing that the U.S. Government does not recommend screening young women. Even more, it suggests that younger woman should not even preform self-breast exams. This entirely contradicts the long-held suggestion that early detection saves lives.

If it’s large enough to be felt, it already may be too late When a tumor is found during an annual screening—mammogram or ultrasound—it’s often caught long before it has grown to a size that can be felt. Unfortunately, women under the age of 50, especially those under 40, must rely on themselves to find a lump. We must show the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force that although we may be the smallest categories of women diagnosed with breast cancer, we still represent lives that could be saved. In the absence of Government-guided support, young women need to be our own breast advocates. We need to forget about the guidelines and get to know our bodies, check ourselves often, and push our medical team to do the same.

Please join us in the fight to change the recommendation to a much earlier age and give younger women a fighting chance against breast cancer. Don’t just do it for us, do it for all the daughters, mothers, and wife’s who will be diagnosed.

Please take a few moments to watch the video below, like the forgotten fighters Facebook page, sign the petition, and of course help me make this grassroots campaign go viral, by passing this message along to everyone you know.
A very special thanks to Rhino media, Shutter Sam Photography, I do Signs, White dress events, Modern Day Floral, Sip Organic Juice Bar, Adrienne and Meghan from Pure Salon, Anything Goes Catering, The Cakabakery, The Event Loft, Hourborfront Banquet Hall, Wasserman’s flowers, White Dress Events, Grand Finale Desserts and Pastries, and to Ron Kellow who helped me string all of this content together. I am so thankful that you trusted in my crazy ideas, and jumped on board to donate time and services, to help me turn my crazy little vision into a reality. I truly could not have done any of this without all of you.

Now let’s make some waves! Click here to sign the petition.

In order to truly make waves we must show support with signatures.

You can also check out the webpage at forgottenfighters.org

#Forgottenfighers #Mypersonalpinktimeprojects #reversetherecommendation



Lung Update: The Good, The Bad, and Even The Sad.


It has been a little over a week since I was released from the hospital for the second time and I am once again perplexing my entire medical team…. or as my nurses point out, keeping all of my specialists on their toes. I will be honest, It has been a really hard few weeks as I recover from my chest tube procedure and extended stays in the hospital and both the emotional and physical pain that comes with that. I have been doing all that I can physically stand to do to distract myself from the fact that I have again been reminded that I am that .1% and as always I fall into the rare category with everything. As hard as it is for me, I have I to admit that I have had some of my lowest points since the very day I was diagnosed these past few weeks and, I actually took my positive and hopeful hat off and just felt, sad, frustrated, and even mad that I am still going through what I am going through 17 months after my diagnosis. I had prepared my mind and my body to face a year of sickness and pain in prepped both my mind and my body for the hardest battle of my life, however that was all with the expectation that after those very horrible and trying 12 months of treatment and surgeries, I would again regain my life or at least feel better, not worse.

However, here we are a year and a half later and I am still being wheeled off to unplanned surgeries, and sitting in the infusion chairs far more then I would like to admit. As this point, my mind is sharp, my determination is strong, and I am ready to jump back into life, however my body is fighting me a bit on how soon this transition can and will happen. My team is again reminding me that my journey with breast cancer specifically is not the norm and I shouldn’t compare or beat myself because I have had to face many obstacles that do not arise in most or any other cases.. I have heard this from the beginning, and I have taken it in stride because to me, my journey is all I have ever known. With each curve ball I have been thrown, I have held my head high and forged through with an optimistic smile. I really never have looked up to the sky and asked why me which until this past week. I have faced every single sad, scary and frustrating day with true and real optimism and I have always believed that everything that has and is happening to me, was part of a greater and bigger plan for me in the long run a test of sorts that would take me where I was meant to be, but for whatever reason these past two surgeries and past 3 hospital stays have gotten me pretty down. I am not sure if it is because I am again trying to come to terms with the fact that it seems that no matter what, my path always comes with scares and complications or if it is just all catching up to me, but after a week and a half in the hospital, I had, just plain had enough. I wanted to go home. Ok, really I wanted to run out of the hospital and run away from everything that my life has become. I just wanted to disappear and pretend none of this was happening and although I know my medical team at Butterworth had a good reason to wanting to keep me admitted there was no stopping me. I just had to get out of that hospital and breathe, because in my mind I was literally going a little crazy.

For the first time, ever I got angry that I have been dealt a crummy hand and I felt sorry for myself. My husband was nervous to take me out of the hospital without full approval of the doctors, however I think he could see what was happening inside of me and he knew that I really just needed to break away. Within in seconds of being in the car, I started to cry. As we drove to get my prescriptions, I said, “I’m sorry. I know you didn’t want me to go, but I had to get out of there. I just cannot take it anymore.” I was struggling to keep up with all of the amazingly inspirational texts, cards, and posts, and I realized that I really just needed to “tap out” of the reality of my life and pretend that I wasn’t “Tammy the cancer patient.” Jordan could tell I was a mess, and I’m not sure he knew what to do. He reminded me that I needed to cut myself a break because it has been a crumby few weeks, as I watched quietly out the window, but it wasn’t helping. Everyone I saw seemed to represent something I no longer have in being out and about enjoying life. That alone seemed to fuel my frustration even more as they reminded me of how much I am still loosing in this battle. With the flip of a switch I was crying again.

Read More

Take Me Out To The Ballpark

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Ok so I will be honest, I am still pretty disconnected from…. Um everything, and I am very much still working my way back from the craziest few weeks that I have had in a very very very long time. Truth is I have had so so many things to write about and just not enough time, or really enough energy to make it all happen with what’s been happening with me physically. So let’s just say there are A LOT of half-written posts in the works.

In some ways this has been the hardest few weeks since my diagnosis, even harder then my intense treatment days, but I will admit that before the last few weeks of classic “Tammy” medical mayhem, some good things actually did happen too, and although there has been a lot of emotion and a lot of pain, there has also been pretty great moments with some very special people in my life as well. So look for me to flood the feed here in the next few weeks with full updates on all fronts, starting with an update from today’s appointments with the Pulmonologist and how I am currently. (Probably tomorrow as I sit in the infusion chair)

But for now I will share this little bit of Awesomeness with the disclaimer that I know that I probably should not have done this given that, I oh… Just got out of the hospital two days ago, and I am very much still struggling with the recovery pain of having a chest tube placed in addition to some inflamed and possibly, but hopefully not infected lungs…. But as some of you know I’m a little crazy, so I took a LOT of pain meds, put my big Jackie-O style glasses on to hide those pain pills and we rushed from my appointments directly to the ballpark for the Pink Out Whitecaps baseball game that I vowed not to miss. And…. I actually threw out one of the first pitches. I will say it didn’t even make it to the plate, well maybe with a bounce, and it did hurt like hell…. because my chest tube was actually placed behind my shoulder blade and muscles were effected so I’m paying for it now big time, but it was so worth it. The truth is, either way I would be feeling the pain now right? At least this way I got a fun experience in there too. The very really truth is that Sometimes you just have to say…. Screw it! I’m not going to let life or better yet my own life circumstances hold me back today! And celebrate the fact that despite one hell of a hard, uphill cancer journey thus far, I am still a Survivor… (Or as I prefer to say, I am a Cancer warrior) Am I right? Plus it made my day to hear my sweet girl Yelling “Good job Mommy! You threw the ball SOOOO far!” From the side lines.

A huge thanks to the West Michigan Komen Association for giving us the gift of this night out as a family at the ballpark to celebrate our “pinkness”, a very big thank you to my husband Jordan for biting his tongue and letting me break the rules of rest and recovery to yet again push myself just a little too far, but this time for a little fun, (As this was my positive way of standing up with him and saying “F*ck Cancer without wearing his awesome shirt) and lastly thank you to my brother Scott, his girlfriend Amanda, and my nephew Connor for making the trip across the state to share this fun “pink”. night with Jordan, Corryn, and I.

Here are a few photos of Pinkness at the BallPark. Now I have to rest before day of appointments.

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‪#‎mypersonalpinktime‬ ‪#‎susangkomen‬ ‪#‎WestMichiganWhiteCaps‬ ‪#‎f‬*ckcancer ‪#‎pinkout‬


Update on Tammy’s Condition

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Hey Guys, it’s Jordan again.
Here’s an update on Tam.

We are now at Butterworth Hospital downtown. After giving Tammy A LOT of medications to get her pain under control and running several tests last night they found out that Tammy has inflammation in her lungs called radiation pneumonitis. I guess this can be pretty painful. They gave her some pretty heavy doses of a steroid last night for this but needed her to be seen by a thoracic surgeon on this which they didn’t have staffed at Blodgett, so we were sent by ambulance to Spectrum Butterworth, which we didn’t really feel was needed. However I guess it is protocol.

They also said that she has subcutaneous emphysema which is when some of the air leaks out of the chest tube and gets stuck between the muscles. For her it is in between the muscles behind her shoulder and in her left side under her arm. This too is really painful and can move around a bit from the incision/lung site so this could explain a lot of what Tam is experiencing in her chest as well. In addition we were told that they saw some apical scaring on the lung and that there was still a small pneumothorax present after the chest tube was removed in addition to a UTI because of being repeatedly straight-cathed last week after the surgery. They are hoping that the small pneumothorax and the subcutaneous emphysema heals on it’s own in time and she is receiving high strength IV meds for the UTI. We are being told that some of this is common (finally) and can be happen with chest tubes, so they are hoping it resolves itself. We just really need to get the inflammation and the painful subcutaneous emphysema take care of.

As of now, we are still waiting to see a Thoracic Surgeon. Tammy is still in a lot of pain, but she doesn’t want to take all the meds they are suggesting because she want’s to be with it when the Doctor comes in so she is again smiling and making the best of spending a few more days in the hospital but off the record she is pretty funny on the meds. At this point we are being told we will be here until at least tomorrow, but we are hoping to get home as soon as we can. We are both missing a little girl who has been hanging with her Grandma’s for the past week.

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Officially Discharged

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Officially being discharged from Butterworth after 4 days of post-surgical care. From what I understand, the procedure to place the drainage tube in my lung, went well. The location of the hole made the procedure tricky because of some main arteries located in that area, but they were able to go in through my back to place the tube instead, and the hole is expected to heal over the next few weeks. They were able to get the trapped air and what looked to be a lot of blood out of my lung and my lung did re-inflate in the affected areas, so they were able to remove the tube late last night. OUCH!
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I don’t actually remember much of the past few days because the IV meds kind of kept me in a fog……. Which I am thankful for, because now that the IV meds are wearing off, I am realizing how right my nurses were in warning me that this would be a very very painful process. Wowers! I won’t lie, I have been through A LOT of painful surgeries, but this one, is right up there on the pain scale. Either way, it way more then I prepared myself for, and I was bummed to hear that it will hurt like this for a good few weeks.

While admitted I did have a few visitors, including one who came with flowers in hand and happened to be from Spectrum Heath’s Marketing department, but mostly, I spent 4 days in bed; resting, healing, relaxing, and sleeping, which if you know me at all, you know that none of these actions happen often. So you know I’m on the right track. I will see my surgeon in a few weeks for repeat CT scans and chest X-rays to see if surgery was a full success, but for now I’ll be on the couch hoping to feel more like myself soon!!!!



Packing my surgery bag again

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It’s like a ready to deliver pregnancy bag, just without the prize at the end.
The past few weeks have been quite a roller coaster with this whole pneumothorax thing, but after a few trips to different specialists, several repeat CT scans and being sent to the ER a few times, the pain is only getting worse along with the other symptoms and the hole appears to be getting bigger rather then healing on it’s own, so I am having surgery this morning to place a tube in an attempt to try to get the trapped air out and allow my lung to re-inflate. Because of my size and the size and placement of the hole, my thoracic surgeon is having intervenes radiology place the line and then I will be placed in his care for the next few days. I was told to plan on staying 4 days in the hospital, but if things go extremely well I may be able to come home sooner.

Because of the location of the hole it’s a little more complicated and there is potential that another portion of my lung could be nicked in the process, so I will be watched pretty closely for the first few days. My husband and I joke that Spectrum should give some sort of punch card out for frequent visits to the OR but sadly I am becoming a pro at this surgery stuff. I am not worried about the surgery, in fact this should be my easiest one yet, however my nurses are warning me that this will be quite painful which is kind of bumming me out a bit. There are so many other details to all of this that I will share a bit later after I come out of the fog, but first I need to finish packing my bag and get in the shower. We have to be at Butterworth at 7 and my procedure should take place around 10. Here goes nothing…..

#yetanothersurgery #mypersonalpinktime

Lung Scan Results Are In

Screen Shot 2016-07-30 at 1.28.53 AMGood News….Lung Scan Results are in:
The results show that the nodule on my lung is stable and it looks to be benign which is the very best news! No more cancer. Big sigh of relief there!

On the bummer side, the test also reviled that I do have a small hole in my lung causing pneumothorax, which explains my shortness of breath. My oncologist wants me to go to the emergency room where they would either insert a chest tube or needle into the lung to help it re-inflate it, if it gets worse this weekend, or if I’m ok the way it is, she wants me to come in Monday for a chest x-Ray to see if it will eventually correct itself or if we need to fix it. A bummer of course, but it’s treatable, and it means that the shortness of breath is not a lasting or long-term side effect from the chemo. This I am very thankful for. 😀


Taking the Bad with the Good

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Taking the Good With the Bad:
Last week was full of high moments for me as I experienced my first National Cancer Survivor Week. To start off my week, The Susan G. Komen Organization shared my story on their home page and with a survivor day campaign that they are running to bring hope and comfort to women enduring breast cancer treatment with notes of encouragement. On Tuesday, I saw my oncologist for my 3 month check up and she not only raved about my reconstruction progress, but also said that there was no sign of any cancer return in my breasts and later that day Spectrum Health Beat posted a story about my journey with breast cancer and the vital part that my medical team played in the last 15 months of treatments and surgeries. On Wednesday I wasn’t feeling great so I spent the better part of the day at infusion, but during that time, I was asked to do my first ever radio interview, which was a little intimidating at first. Following the interview and my infusions, I headed down stairs to check out the Spectrum Health Cancer Center’s Cancer Survivor day celebration at Lemmon Holton where I met some pretty special people. One being a very sweet young lady. I was sitting with a friend when she came up and said “Tammy?”. Her eyes instantly welled up with tears before she could get another word out. She said she has been following me for the past year and that she has followed many cancer stories over the years and none have touched her in the way that my story has, which was so touching to hear. She said I usually never do this, but I saw you and I had to come up and tell you how amazing you are and how much you have inspired me. I asked her if she had been personally touched by cancer and she struggled to hold back the tears as she said, “I lost my aunt to breast cancer when I was younger. She was everything to me and I am now living my life in a way that honors her.” I got goose bumps all over my body, but in a good way, as I too lost my aunt at a very young age to breast cancer, and I too made a promise to live my life in a way that honored her. Although we didn’t chat for too long, she left a little imprint on my day and on my heart. I ended my week by finally releasing a sneak peek video teaser of the Breast cancer awareness project that has been in the works since the day I was diagnosed,which was a release of emotion in itself. I still have a lot of work yet to do, but I am very excited to release the full project into the public very soon.


All of this sounds really great, but there is one moment among all these happy and joyous moments that I haven’t shared. Before I left my 3 month oncology appointment with Dr. Melnik, she mentioned that my post treatment and surgery nausea may be because of some gall stones that have shown up on my scans, so she suggested I see a surgeon about potentially having my gall bladder removed, and then… She let me know that they had found a nodule on my lung in a previous scan. Right away, she said that it could be nothing, but she also said that they have to take anything in the lungs very seriously because it is not uncommon for breast cancer to move to the lungs, which is not what I wanted to hear. She said we have to do another scan to take a closer look and makes sure that this nodule is not more cancer. As usual my heart skipped a beat, but I have had many scares already in this journey so I am getting better at putting my fear aside and letting the positive guide me through. Although it is always scary to hear you have to be re-scanned for anything, I was able to kind of dismiss it and tell myself it was nothing. However seeing my husbands eyes well up with tears and his mind fill with fear again, as I shared this with him, reminded me how serious this situation is and always will be. Just seeing the fear on his face took me back to those scary first few days last year. The truth is, having even a small chance that there could be more cancer growing in my body and knowing that I could be faced with all of this again, has a way of sending your mind into panic mode.

I will be honest, I originally didn’t think this was something I was going to share because this key part of my post doesn’t exactly go with all the good that cancer survivor week had brought last week, but I am realizing that this key part has a bigger part in this whole message all together. To be completely honest I am not a huge fan of the word “survivor” or at least I wasn’t. I kind of felt that if my medical team could tell me that I will never have to deal with cancer again and that cancer was just a part of my past and will never be a part of my future, then I could refer to myself as a cancer survivor, however we don’t know if that is the case. I started my battle with cancer last year, I battled my way through treatment, I battled my way though surgeries, and now I am battling my way through post treatment care, and the lasting effects of breast cancer. My fight started last year and it will not end until the day I take my last breath (which will hopefully be many many years down the road), so I prefer to call myself a “Cancer Warrior”. I’m not sure if my battle will ever be won because from what I understand you don’t really ever fully win a battle with breast cancer… Although it has a high cure rate as they say, it also has the ability to lay dormant in other parts of the bod for years until it rears its ugly head again, so it will always be lurking in my mind, and I feel like I will always be fighting. In explaining this to my infusion nurse, she said, why is it that you don’t like to attach the word survivor to you? How does it make you feel? She does that sometimes… just puts you on the spot and makes you face and work through your reality but she did kind of see my point. However it must have been on her mind, because she returned to my little infusion cubicle a little later to tell me that she looked it up and the term “Survivor” is actually derived from the Latin term “la Vevere” which means “to live or living”. The dots immediately connected in my mind. Although Cancer will always be a part of me and I will constantly be reminded that my “cancer” could return, I don’t have to let it own me in the mean time. That’s when it clicked that I needed to share this part of my week with all of you because dealing with constant fearful moments like these and still getting up each morning and putting a smile on my face for the ones I love is what truly makes me a survivor. I do have some control here.. I can wake up every morning and choose to live and not let cancer control me in this very moment. Even with the scares that seem to keep coming at every pass, I can take the good with the bad, and I can choose to be a survivor. I can choose not to let cancer win and keep me down and that is a choice I am going to keep making. So I am a “cancer warrior” who will not give up, but at the same time I am also a survivor who chooses to live. In the mean time, I am going to hope and pray that this scare with my lung, is just that… a scare.

Although the fear that comes with a cancer diagnosis will never get easier, I am accepting that this is a part of my life now and I am choosing to remain optimistic. In talking to both my nurse and my OT today, there really is a greater chance that this scare is nothing to worry about, but none of us will be able to move forward until we know that for sure. For now an order has been placed for another scan to take a closer look at my lungs and I will be seeing a surgeon about my gall bladder in the coming weeks. As usual I will keep you all posted.

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