My Cancer Journey

Thursday, June 13, 2013

 Photos courtesy of Alyssa Maisano Photography

First of all I would like to give thanks to my family and friends.  Special thanks to my husband, parents and sisters for all their help with the kids while I was away for treatments.  Without their support, I would not have had the will or strength to fight. 

My name is Tammy Lee and in 2011 I was told those fateful words: “you have cancer”.  That was only about 6 months after I had my daughter and my son was 1.5 year old.  Few other diagnosis strike fear into our hearts as thoroughly as a cancer diagnosis.  I was diagnosed with Choriocarcinoma, a rare form of Gestational Trophoblastic Disease.  I underwent a surgery called D&C and received a few months of chemotherapy.  Surprisingly, neither surgery or cancer scared me.  But I was scared for my kids not having their mother.  I was cancer-free in May of 2011.

About a year later in August of 2012, I was devastated when I found out my cancer relapsed and I had to go through it all over again.  My whole life changed from there.  Chemotherapy was more aggressive this time and required hospitalization 3 days per week with countless days of recovery in bed.  It was very difficult to cope because I had to be away from my kids most days.  It was not easy holding down my tears each week when I had to drive myself to the hospital and spend a few days there without Jae and the kids.  I told myself again to fight, because I wanted to see my kids grow up. I have strength in my heart and spirit that I never knew I possessed. My kids gave me the strength to go on.  I want to be the one to brush their teeth, read to them, snuggle with them, and remind them how much I love them and how completely special and unique they are despite their imperfections. And going through cancer with people cheering me on and responding with love and compassion always gave me a boost.  

This has been a tough few years for us.  It has been a rollercoaster of emotions and thoughts that will never be forgotten.  Nothing about cancer is easy, and raising children while battling it is particularly not easy. My kids have been aware that I’ve been sick but we are fortunate enough that they are too young to comprehend the magnitude.  Some days, I find myself driving my kids around and just shedding tears, trying to hide them from my kids because they’ve seen their mommy cry way too much. Even if they are small enough to not remember the treatment, they could tell mommy was really sick. When we tell them mommy has to go to the hospital, they understood. 

Cancer has touched my life in many ways. Being diagnosed and going through this traumatic change in life has made me prioritize my life and concentrate on my family, health, and helping others.  Throughout all the treatment and pain, my husband and I would take our kids to the playground.  Took them to birthday parties and playdates.  I wanted my kids to have a normal life despite my situation.  Just the little things in life meant so much. I love watching my children grow and learn.  They are my life.  

I must admit having cancer is one of the most frightening experiences people can go through. The hair loss which often results from treatment, while temporary, is a real fear. Watching helplessly as your hair falls into your hands each day can be a devastating and depressing experience.  It can be painful to look in the mirror and see someone you're not. The baldness is a constant reminder of the disease, so it can be a real hurdle to overcome. At first after shaving my head, I was very conscious.  When in public, I always wondered if people were staring.  Each day I would put on my hat, gather my inner strength, and go forth with the day.  I think it's important to remain positive and keep in mind that hair loss is not your fault and it's only temporary.  It just exemplifies the fact that you will never be the same person that you were before you were told you had cancer.  Spend your energy fighting the disease and staying healthy. The hair will take care of itself.

I'm currently being treated at MD Anderson.  I was transferred from Baylor a few weeks ago.  After weeks of very uncomfortable scans, MRI and tests, the experts at MD Anderson concluded that I may have another type of Trophoblastic Disease.  Surgery is scheduled for next week.  This may only be a crabshoot but it's worth a shot.  If surgery doesn't get rid of it, I will be sent to Boston to see the world's expert in treating this type of cancer.  That means back on chemo again.  {really dreading that}  Fingers crossed that surgery will take care of it.

Friends often ask how I'm able to stay positive through all this.  I realize that moping will not change anything so might as well make the best of each day.  

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