My Husband’s Story

A lot of you have asked or wondered if my husband Jordan would ever be willing to share aspects of how my Breast cancer affected him and our family. He has always said that he would someday, but feared he wouldn’t be able to put his thoughts into words in the same way that I have. I think it was something he would have gotten to eventually, especially if something happened and I was not doing well, but we got bit of a nudge a few months back when Good Housekeeping contacted me. They were interested in interviewing Jordan and I for a story about young families facing breast cancer. We of course said yes as it has unintentionally become part of my mission to share the side of breast cancer that so many hide, but this was a great opportunity for Jordan to share a bit of his story as well. I will admit he was hesitant at first, and in his words he feared he may “screw it up”. I told him that It was his call, but I did have one stipulation….. If he agreed to the story, he had to be 100% open and honest with the journalist writing the story.

Here is the article that GH published a few weeks back. The writer we worked with did a great job of capturing Jordan’s thoughts and feelings and Jordan joined me by taking one giant step out of his comfort zone, as he was honest and open in discussing a some pretty difficult topics. The truth is he too has suffered and is still suffering through all of this with me, just in different ways. In some ways he is suffering on an even deeper level than I am because he has to helpless watch and react rather than feel things first hand. Breast cancer didn’t just happen to me. Breast cancer happened to everyone who loves me.

We would like to note that the headline is a little deceiving. Jordan did take a lot of the photos that are featured in the article, however Sam from Shutter Sam Photography deserves a great deal of the credit for beautifully capturing so many aspects of the past two years, including all the aspects of this journey that are so difficult for others to see.

See the Good Housekeeping article here:

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/a44239/husband-documents-wifes-cancer-battle/

#MyPersonalPinkTime #GoodHousekeeping #ShutterSamPhotography

 

Ending a Very Pink Month With a Trip To Camp

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!!!!

‪#‎Surgerystinks‬!
‪#‎mypersonalpinktime‬
‪#‎Cancerstinks‬!

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A Shout-out to Co-Survivors

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I received an email from the Susan G. Komen Organization a few weeks ago. They had come a cross my story and expressed that they were in tears after diving deeper to my blog, which gave me chills all over, but in a good way. First I cannot express how honored I am that the Komen foundation was touched by my story, but I am also so honored to hear that my words are helping others. I really never thought that my posts would be reaching as many people as they are reaching and I never thought I would be getting the response that I am getting. But having such a key player in the Breast Cancer awareness, research and funding community share my story has taken that to a whole new level and again reminded me that stepping our of my comfort zone to document and share some of the hardest and scariest yet amazing moments of my life; was indeed what I was meant to do. To my surprise the Komen Organization asked if they could feature my “I love Mom” photo on social media, and said they would be honored to share my story as part of a campaign they have wrapped around National Survivor day, as well.

A few days ago, a photo of Jordan, Corryn, and I was added to the homepage feature on the official Susan G. Komen website, and this morning I received an email from my contact at the Komen Organization, with a social post featuring co-survivors and mentioning all that my sweet husband has done to help me through the hardest year of my life. My body went tingly all over. The post is touching and beautiful at the same time, and I too feel it is important to honor all of the co-survivors out there as National Survivor day nears. In most cases, it is these co-survivors or those closest to us during our war with cancer, who really give us the strength to keep going every single day and to most of all, to keep getting up everyday and fighting.

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A day to honor Mom

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The day I became a mother was the very best day of my life. I had literally dreamed about becoming a mommy from the time I was in elementary school, maybe even before. This may sound weird, and I am not sure I have ever admitted this to anyone, but where most kids excitedly looked through the big JCPenny catalog picking out toys, I looked through the catalog picking out the children I would someday have…. And of course picking out all of the cute clothes I would someday dress them in. When I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always replied with; “I want to be a mommy”. My love of children only grew through the years and I was quickly labeled as the one most likely to have a gaggle of kids by my peers. I started babysitting all of the neighborhood kids at when I was 10, and I loved every second of it. When I was in high school I took a job working in a daycare after school and later I worked as a nanny for two amazing baby girls that I still refer to as my first born. I fell in love with every child that I had the pleasure of caring for, and I often joked that I was a second mommy to many, however the love that fills your heart as your baby grows and develops inside of you, and the joy you feel in the moments you bring that baby into the world, are nothing short of awe-inspiring, life-defining, and indescribable for those who haven’t felt it for themselves.

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Happy Nurses Day

  
I just wanted to give a VERY BIG shout out to all of the amazing nurses out there who are selflessly dedicating their lives to helping others. 

Thank you for holding our hands when we face the unthinkable, for caring for us in ways that we never thought we needed, and for listening when no one else understands. Thank you for taking the time to teach and inspire when our worlds seem to be spinning out of control, for showing compassion when the fear and the sadness takes over, for motivating us to reach goals that seem unreachable, and for cheering us on when every step along the way. Thank you for taking the time to truly get to know us, and for knowing when to be tough, but also when to be human. Thank you for making us smile when the weight of the world is on our shoulders, for investing a little bit of yourselves in to each us, but most of all thank you for all that you are and all that you do! The world just wouldn’t be the same without you. 

To be real…. I don’t know where patients like me, would be, without amazing people like you caring for us during our hardest moments. From a slightly biased standpoint, I have to say that I have been blessed to have the VERY BEST nurses caring for me over the past year as I faced the awful “C”, but to be fair I have never met a nurse who wasn’t willing to go above and beyond for my care… and for that, I will be forever grateful. 

Happy Nurse’s Day to all of the amazing nurses out there!

-Tammy 

#Mypersonalpinktime

We Won!

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I am happy to announce that Josh Reed and the My Personal Pink Time video took home an Eclipse Award and the honor of being named “Best Documentary” last night at the Ellipse Awards Ceremony.

I caked on the healthy looking makeup and left equipped with both nausea and pain medication, but I was not going to miss an opportunity to celebrate Josh and this honor with my hubby, and Josh’s beautiful wife Erin.

I have to be honest, I had combed through every second and every detail of my video for months so it had kind of lost its emotional effect on me. However, in that moment, I for the first time unintentionally stepped outside myself long enough to actually see the impact that the collaboration of Sam’s emotional images, my words, and Josh’s amazing video skills were having having on others.

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Pain and Worry

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It has been a pretty rough few days physically, painfully and emotionally, and to be honest after feeling nauseous and struggling to eat or drink for the past few days post surgery, I am very weak, vomiting and constantly on the verge of passing out. It was a struggle because although I knew I needed to be seen, and I knew I really needed some fluids to get me back to a good place, I didn’t really know which, out of all of my specialists was best to call. Do I call my oncologist who has treated every condition for the past year, my cardiologist who knows of my cardio conditions but is unaware of how cancer exasperates them, do I call the surgeon who saw me last a few days ago in the hospital or do I call my general family practice doc?

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