Tammy's Story - She is My Hero

09
Oct

Tammy's Story - She is My Hero

October 9, 2012 - 12:00 AM
Comments (4)

Breast cancer touched my life when I was 23; my sister was 28 when she was diagnosed.  When I heard the news, I cried and cried thinking her life was over. 

She had a lumpetomy then did chemo and radiation. I took care of her a lot during this process.  I had to shave her head when her hair started falling out, I took her to the doctor and to chemo treatments. But she BEAT it! She was cancer free!  She even made the 5 year Survivor mark. 

Then on her 7 year check up, it was back in the opposite breast and she underwent a double mastectomy, chemo and radiation. While she was going through treatment this time, I was taking care of my mother who had to have her leg amputated.  My sister was married this time so his family helped with her doctors appointments and chemo treatments.  Again, she was cancer free!  She hit the 5 year survivor mark again.  

Then in 2010 she was having major neck pain and her primary doctor sent her for an MRI - they found a mass in her and sent her to a ENT and he said he could not find anything wrong.  I loaded my sister up and took her to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to the ER.  Their head and neck doctor ordered a CT scan and later came and said he was 95% sure she had metastatic breast cancer in the lymph nodes in her neck.  He was 100% right. 

I knew what those words meant but my sister was not giving up.  The doctor said no surgery, it was stage 4, terminal.  She cried but my sister fought so hard.  She did chemo and it didn't work. They sent her home for Hospice care at the end of October 2011.  She was now divorced and never had children so I brought her to live with me and my family.  I was scared and had no idea if I could watch what was going to happen.  My sister never ever gave up hope.  She slowly got worse and got to where she could not eat.  She ate on Christmas Day but after that could not swallow very well so we would freeze tea to a slush form and she would eat it with a spoon.  She made New Years but she was getting weaker and weaker.  She would still smile and was still fighting. 

Then on my 40th birthday friends came over to sit with her so my husband and son could take me out to dinner.  When we got home, I knew it was starting.  Her foot was turning blue.  During the night I could tell she was getting worse so I called the girlfriends that had been visiting every day and said it had started.  During the next day she was not able to talk due to her mouth being so dry.  She pointed to me and I said "Me?" and she shook her head yes, I leaned down to hear what she had to say and she asked me if my birthday was over, and I told her "Yes, my birthday is over and you can go now".  That was the toughest thing I have ever done, to tell my sister to quit fighting.  I didnt want her to go, I wanted her here with me.  There were about 12 family members and friends that were there and she was already incoherent and we gathered around her bed and said a prayer and everyone started singing Amazing Grace. And when we were finished singing, my sister took her last breath as a single tear rolled down her cheek.  That was the hardest thing I have ever seen.  The tear meant a lot - since she was sent home on Hospice care she NEVER shed a tear.  She was so scared to cry, scared that she would not be able to breathe since she could not swallow very well.  So cancer touched me in a bad way.  My sister died January 7,2012. She fought cancer for 17 years and I have never seen a stronger person.  She is my hero.

Comments

Submitted by Felisia Charles... on
Tammy you told this story like only a loving sister could..Theresa showed all of us how to be strong even when it seems we're at out weakest. She was the sweetest person I have ever known. I am so blessed and honored to have been able to call her my friend. WE LOVE AND MISS U SWEET T! RIP

Submitted by Lisa on

I have known Tammy and her brave sister, Teresa for most of my life. We live in a small town and everybody knows you and your business. When I was young Teresa was simply the coolest girl I knew. Beautiful, smart, loved by everyone and she never met a stranger. Her love for her family was the only thing that overshadowed her love for animals, especially horses. Years went by and we all moved on, going in different directions with our lives, marrying, having children, moving out of state, moving back...Every time I ran in to Tammy or Teresa they were the same. Bubbly, friendly and full of life. Even when Teresa was fighting so hard she still had a smile on her face. Tammy moved into our neighborhood and we re-kindled our friendship. We laughed over similarities in our lives, we both had sons named Rowdy, we both felt like our connection to our small town roots was a blessing and a curse, depending on the day, and a love for a seriously good margarita. Around October, just as we were all discussing our Halloween plans I began to notice a change in her. I began to see a look of concern and pure dread on Rowdy's face, often seeing him staring off when I would visit their classroom at school. Then I noticed Tammy's social media posts changed, and became infrequent. By the end of October it was evident that Teresa had relapsed and it weighed heavily on Rowdy as well as Tammy. I saw my friend who is one of the best moms I know, become a vigilant lioness. She took charge of a situation that would leave most people curled up in the fetal position for months. And may I add that she did all of this, keeping her full time job, doting mother and wife as well as caregiver and a shoulder to lean on for her sister without hesitation and without a whole heap of help because her husband travels extensively. Not to say there was no help, there absolutely was and Bubba was always there when he was home, quiet, kind Bubba, a man of few words, but his actions speak volumes. He is the rock that Tammy and Rowdy can always count on. Of course friends and family came often, but the burden on Tammy was evident, simply because above all else, Tammy was losing her best friend. Her angel. I am certain that if any aunt could think a nephew perfect Teresa certainly felt this way about Rowdy. She simply adored him and he would light up any time "T" was mentioned. Even when she was nearing the end, when we all knew it was coming, I could still see a glimmer of hope in Rowdy's eye. He spoke of her with such love and hope it was hard for me not to tear up. After Christmas I spoke with Tammy and she conveyed how she knew the end was near, we talked about her concerns for Rowdy and how he would handle things and although she was ready for Teresa not to suffer, she wasn't ready to lose her sister. Every time I saw her, the situation weighed heavily on her and when Teresa passed the relief, grief, loss and the pain wrapped around our neighborhood and it seemed like days before the sun shown happily again. At Teresa's memorial service a poem was read entitled "The Dash". It was beautiful and me and the friends I went with were very touched at how it really summed up Teresa. Teresa lived every day as if it were a gift. She never met a stranger. She was open and honest and we were all better for knowing her. I think that Tammy took this poem to heart. Because I see a little bit more of Teresa in her now, in her smile, and mannerisms, the way she soldiers on, never giving in to a fight even through the pain....And Rowdy, well at the induction ceremony for the National Junior Society, the speaker decided to share a poem with the audience imagine our suprise, it was so hard to hold back tears..Yep the principal read "The Dash". That was certainly heaven sent and the fact the Teresa will always be there, smiling at her Rowdy, reminding him, that no matter where or when, there is a little slice of heaven smiling down on him, happy and proud of the man he is becoming. Tammy's story touched me in more ways than I can count. Cancer touched my friends in a horrible way, but their reaction to it, and the way they fought back touched my life and the way I look at what I have and who I have. Never take one minute for granted. Because even through the pain, through the bad seasons, memories are made. Memories we need to make us who we are, to remind us to fight and never give up.

Submitted by Laura Anderson on
Tammy this was the hardest thing for me to read.. I remember all this like it was yesterday, even though I was living in another state when she was diagnosed.. There wasn't a time I didn't think about what she must be going through and the rest of you. If I could have done anything to help or take away your pain honey I would have. I love you and always think of you, the family and all that we have all been through since the first day we met long long long ago.. All My Love, Laura

Submitted by Wendy Sweeten on

I had the pleasure of knowing Theresa and Tammy for many years. We all called Theresa "T" she was as strong as Mr. T himself. I adored T and was amazed that no matter what she was going through she always has a beautiful smile on her face. I witnessed the night of her passing with so much love surrounding her it was very hard to know this was the end but I will always cherish her memory. The group of friends that surrounded her will forever hold that loving memory.

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