Woman survives cancer with humor and grace
It was August 2009 when Tammy Jones noticed a lump in her right breast. Her family doctor ordered an ultrasound and later a needle biopsy.
The diagnosis was breast cancer -- an aggressive strain that was spreading. She'd need intensive and immediate treatment to stop the disease.
"When I was told that I had breast cancer, it was pretty devastating and overwhelming," Jones recalled. "The treatment plan was going to be horrific, and I was going to get really sick."
She went home and "had a long conversation" with her husband and told him, "I have cancer, but the cancer doesn't have me."
Specifically, Jones, then 41, tested double positive -- not only did she have cancerous cells but she was also hormone-receptor positive. In the second type of cancer, the hormones progesterone or estrogen cause the disease to spread, according to WebMD.
Following a lumpectomy, her doctors would order chemotherapy and hormone treatments -- and later radiation. Every three weeks, Jones underwent a 6- to 7-hour chemotherapy treatment; on the weeks in between, she received the hormone therapy. Once that was done, she had seven days of radiation therapy.
"I got really sick (from the chemo)," she said. "Within three weeks, I'd lost all my hair." The radiation treatment that followed left her with severe burns.
"I was going to do all of the treatment options (my doctor) prescribed (chemo, radiation)," she said. "And I would not give up. ... I decided the word 'cancer' had a whole different meaning for me:
"C – The C in cancer for me means control. I'm taking control of my diagnosis. It is not taking control of me!
"A – The A in cancer for me means accept. I have accepted my diagnosis but I will not dwell on it. I will keep a positive attitude.
"N – The N in cancer for me means new beginning. I decided that I was going to start a fresh new life after my treatments. I was going to live life to the fullest, because you never know when it can be taken away from you.
"C – The C in cancer for me means comedy. I am a big jokester, and I used my husband's and my humor to get me through it. I lost all my hair, and one of our morning jokes was my husband would say to me, 'Before I go to work, can I rub your head for luck?'
"E – The E in cancer for me means encouragement. I could not have gotten through it without all of the support and encouragement I received from my friends, family and even strangers. My husband is my rock. He was there for me through thick and thin, and never missed a doctor's appointment. He is my husband and my best friend.
"R – The R in cancer for me means remodel. I love to decorate and redecorate. I decided that I was going to remodel my life. The silly little things that use to bother me? I will no longer let them bother me. I have a new outlook on life and cherish every moment of it."