Name: Tammy Gail
Diagnosed At Age: 38
Status: Cancer-free for 9 years
My Story: Being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, I remember a blur of treatments, surgeries and body-altering experiences. As a young breast cancer patient and single mom raising a teenage son, I was running a successful business and was about to face some very difficult decisions in the coming months during my course of treatment. Cancer was not going to rob my family of our future together, so we kicked it into high gear. Investing a mortgage payment on my “wonder wig,” I was able to survive and thrive in spite of breast cancer. Thanks to the skill and knowledge of my “Dream Team” of doctors and specialists, 2013 marks my ninth cancer-free anniversary (fist-bump and high-five). Seven years ago, I founded a breast cancer charity called Glam-A-THON™ that has turned into a breast cancer revolution. I have had the honor of working side by side with our miraculous Glam Board – a team of volunteer board members who are more dedicated and driven than I could have ever dreamed, and together we have been moving and shaking to create a sassy, funky, and outrageous breast cancer event series that gets more fab and raises more dough every year. It is designed to unlock every woman’s inner diva. Fabulous women doing fabulous fundraising all in the name of breast cancer support. This charity project is the legacy that we hope to bring into the national arena destined to help women across America as they battle breast cancer. This October, I will once again urge every sassy woman, man, child and canine to join me and my Glam Squad as we Strap On Our Stilettos, Lacquers Our Locks & Gloss for the Glam Cam because The Divas are Coming! Visit www.glam-a-thon.com for all the juicy details, and know that your generosity is not only wildly appreciated but will directly benefit a woman in need.
My reaction when I was first diagnosed: My diagnosis came on New Year’s Eve. I stopped off at the clinic to pick up the results of my first mammogram on the way to a New Year’s Eve party with friends. I never thought twice that the results might not be negative (no history of breast cancer anywhere in our family), so I went to the appointment alone. When the nurse walked into my examination room, she was holding a box of Kleenex and booklet titled “How to Deal with Breast Cancer.” It was such a surreal scene, and I was in such denial that I insisted she had pulled the wrong chart. I asked my poor nurse to check my wristband (and social security number), three times before it sunk in that she was indeed reading my chart. The rest of the appointment was a blur. I don’t remember one word that I was told during that visit. I do remember composing myself, walking out to my car, resting my head on the steering wheel and sobbing uncontrollably.
How I’m feeling now: 9 years cancer free – Woo hoo! It truly doesn’t get much better than that!
My inspirations: I believe that the people who battle an illness or extraordinary life challenge are the most inspiring because they force us to recognize the power of the human spirit. People can create their own destiny. Cancer was probably the most powerful and life-altering event to occur in my adult life because it forced me to refocus and re-prioritize everything from personal relationships to career path. Cancer took the old Tammy, but left me with a new, enhanced version of my former self – and this new, surgically upgraded version is fabulous!
My support system: The amazing support of my family, friends, my Dream Team of medical staff, faith and a hell of a good sense of humor. I could not have gotten through the experience without an army of support.
I’m proud of: Starting a successful breast cancer charity seven years ago that has helped local women to conquer their journey through breast cancer, bring tremendous awareness of the disease and our mission, and mobilize the community in which we live. You never know when you’ll be on the receiving end of someone else’s generosity.
I’m afraid of: Not too much scares me anymore, but the thought of re-diagnosis periodically rears its ugly head. As soon as they occur, I nip them in the bud and stay focused on all the incredible possibilities and opportunities that await.
I’ve learned: To pick my battles, weigh all the facts, and live my life as grand as possible.
My advice to new patients: Approach your diagnosis as if it’s a career move. It’s your responsibility to get all the facts, speak to as many people as possible who have gone through the process, be sure you feel very comfortable with your medical team, and always trust your gut. Dig deep, ask plenty of questions, take good notes, and be sure you are armed with the best information before making a decision. And ALWAYS stay sassy!