It's a Big One....

12:44 AM Elizabeth Seckman 5 Comments



Tammy Long...bald is beautiful!
Yeah, it’s a big one. Way past 500 words, but these are the words of one little lady you should listen to. She has tiny feet, but wears some freakishly large shoes that few people would ever want to fill.
When I asked Tammy Long if I could share her story, she said sure, but she wasn’t really certain she did anything special.
Wow, I thought.  Add humility to awesome amounts of strength. I asked her a few questions and she answered, suggesting I rewrite her words, make it a keeper, but honestly, her words are truer and far more fascinating than I could ever write...so here's her tale.

I had my first ever mammogram on May 23rd… It wasn't that bad of an ordeal, granted, not something I'd want to do every day, but it was all right.

The 28th of May was Rhen's  (Tammy’s little boy) preschool fun day, I volunteered, but had to come home for lunch.  As luck would have it, I hadn't been home for five minutes when the phone rang...it was the hospital, the lady was very specific when she stated they wanted me back up there the next day for a re-do of the right breast.  I had to decline, the next day was Rhen's last day of preschool, I wasn't about to miss that!  She sounded a bit annoyed, but scheduled me for June 1st. 
 They not only did the re-smooshing, but an ultrasound.  I felt so sorry for that young doctor that came in to deliver the news that I’d need a biopsy...I cried so hard, my children’s lives flashed before my eyes.  I was in a mindless oblivion.  Thank heavens Shannon  (Tammy’s husband) was there to drive me home, I'm not sure I'd have made it.  I honestly think at that point that I just knew this was going to be one hell of a journey...I just didn't know the half of it yet!!

The biopsy was scheduled for June 23rd…  I got the news that the biopsy was abnormal on the 29th…and on July 1st I was officially diagnosed with breast cancer.
 I was being one tough lady sitting there listening to my options, until I glanced out of the corner of my eye and saw Shannon sitting there, tears running down his cheeks.  I lost it!!  This long haired, tough as nails kind of guy wasn't supposed to be crying like a baby.  But anyway, in my mind, I knew what I needed to do, but figured I'd better see what the hubby thought. We talked it over on the way home and he that whatever I decided he'd stand behind me, this was something that I know broke his heart...not the loss of the breast, but that I was going to go through something that he couldn't help me with, so to speak.

I called the following Monday and set the masectomy up for July 24th...ironic date, that evening would be Tyler County's Relay for Life event.
Anywho, the morning of the 24th, I had to be at the hospital at 7:30 a.m.  Talk about a LONG day!!  I was never so thankful to see a friendly face (Jenny Hoover) when I had to get the shots (sorry, I don't remember what they were called) around the nipple to shoot dye into my body to see the lymph nodes.  That hurt like HELL!!!  Jenny held my hand the entire time, letting me squeeze her hand to oblivion!  There truly are angels around us everyday!!  She will never know how much that meant to me!!  I've told her, but it just doesn't feel like enough, ya know?  So, the surgery that was scheduled for noon, didn't happen until almost 3p.m.  It went well, and I was in a room resting, I'd like to say peacefully, but that would be a lie, around 6 p.m...around the same time that my babies were walking around the track at Relay with MiMim Joyce (Grandma), Aunt Sara and cousin Gabe!!  I had two drains, from where they had to remove lymph nodes to have tested, that stayed in for a week.  That was a treat, let me tell ya...but oh baby, when they came out!!  That was pain unlike I had ever felt!!  \
Tammy getting chemo

And here’s where Rhen comes into the story.  He was scheduled for his yearly MRI on August 5th, he has these to keep an eye on the tumors that are behind his eyes from the NF1 (which is probably another story in and of itself).  I didn't get to go, so I stayed home with Raina (Tammy’s little girl) while Shannon and MiMim Joyce took him. 

August 11th I went for lung x-rays and a gated heart test to make sure I could withstand chemotherapy.  They were good, so the first treatment on the 20th was a go!  The morning of the 20th is somewhat of a blur.  I have a couple of pics from that morning that I'll attach.  I was scared!!  I'd seen mom get her chemo years ago (Tammy’s mom passed away  cancer) , and even before we made it to Moundsville, she was puking her guts out.  I didn't want to do that, but knew that whatever was thrown at me, I'd deal with it...I knew He would see me through...He had to!!  ;0)  The treatment went without a hitch. My nurse’s name was Kelly...she helped me through SO much!!!  She is truly an angel, just another one of the many on this journey that I couldn't possible thank enough!!  After the treatment, Shannon and I headed out to eat!!!  Oh my, I was in awe and shock!!  I wasn't nauseas or anything, the tiredness didn't hit until later! I found out the following morning what it's effects did to me.  Every ounce of my being ached, the way I've described this to people is that even bending my fingers ached me, I felt like an 80 year old woman with really bad arthritis...I moved like one too!! 

The morning of the 24th, my step-mom Brenda and my step-sister Sara and I headed to Parkersburg to go wig shopping.  Talk about a downer.  I wasn't upset about losing the boob, but even after just one treatment I knew I wasn't going to be a lucky girl and get to keep my hair...the clumps were bigger than normal when I washed my hair, so buying a wig was inevitable.  I was an emotional mess...losing my hair was taking a bigger toll on me than anything.  We made our choice and headed home.  Once in the door, I checked my answering machine...this is where the story really goes haywire!! 
Rhen getting his pic-line
There was a message from Rhen’s doctor. They wanted to meet with us the next day there was something on my baby’s MRI results that she needed to talk to us about.  My world crumbled!!  Luckily Rhen wasn't home to witness my breakdown!!  I called Shannon, how he even understood what I said is beyond me, then I called MiMim Joyce.  Then I called my nurse Kelly!!   She cried with me, but gave me a little kick in the butt to help keep me sane.  I made a few more phone calls, then put the happy face on for my boy!!

Shannon, MiMim Joyce and I sat in Dr. A’s office for way over an hour.  Love that lady!!  She had already talked to a TEAM of doctors in Morgantown and was ready to get the ball rolling...the TEAM wanted to meet us on the 27th.  She informed us that the MRI showed a brain tumor, one that was going to be inoperable.  Coming home was filled with silence, all of us just doing our talking to the big Man, asking, begging actually, for the strength to pull all of this off.

So, on the morning of August 27th, we all headed to Morgantown to meet Rhen's Team… the eye doctor,  the ped's oncologist Dr. P (WONDERFUL MAN), the Neuro specialist Dr. J and the surgeon, Dr. C.  They told us basically the same thing that Dr. A did.  Dr. P wanted to get started as soon as possible, so a date was set for September 2nd.  Rhen would get his pic-line put in and then his first treatment right after the pic-line procedure.  

September 2nd was crazy.  They had told us to be there at 8a.m. for a hearing test (they had to establish a baseline, because of the chemo meds could affect his hearing.  That was the only thing that was on schedule for the rest of the day.  He was supposed to have his pic-line put in at 11:30 a.m., but they were running behind, so behind that eventually (after waiting for quite a few hours), they basically did the procedure in a regular room, they were that busy.  Now normally Rhen is a MiMim or Mom kinda boy, and he had a death grip on me while they were trying to get the IV started for his pic-line, so after the procedure was done, and we got him to wake up, we headed over for his first chemo treatment with Dr. P.  Rhen immediately gravitated toward a certain nurse, she would be his nurse every time we went for chemo, she'd clean his pic-line and administer the drugs...her name, Kelly!!  So, from here on out, when Rhen and I would talk about our nurses we'd have to say 'my Kelly', so we'd know which one we were talking about. 
Rhen getting treatment, safe on daddy's lap
 Here's where Shannon got a shock, when Rhen's nurse Kelly asked him whose lap, if any, he wanted to sit on while he got his chemo, he chose his daddy!!  Shannon wasn't really ready for this, his face was a mix of shock, surprise, and I can't do this...but he did, and I know he would have never denied Rhenner. Later we talked about it, and he really was scared, thinking he couldn't do it, let his son sit on his lap and get chemo.  I told him Rhen knew what he was doing.  
Rhen playing at Ronald McDonald House

Dr. C (the surgeon) came in and talked to MiMim and I...in plain English!!  He explained that if they tried to get into where the tumor was located (he even pulled up the image and showed us) that more than likely Rhen wouldn't survive...this was NOT an option.  He said that after talking to another team of doctors from Duke University, they all felt they had made the right diagnosis, which was an ASTROCYTOMA.  Rhen's regimine would be chemo every week for four weeks, he'd be off a week then we'd do four weeks of a chemo pill that he'd take at home.  On his off weeks and pill weeks we had to get his pic-line cleaned, which they thought we could do ourselves.  NOT!!  We called up Tammy Archer, and on those weeks she cleaned his line for us!!  I can do a lot of things, but doing that just wasn't meant to be...for any of us!!  So, Rhenner did awesome with his first dose, but he had to be there first thing in the morning for them to check his pic-line, so Shannon, MiMim and Rhen got a room at the Ronald McDonald House.  I got to eat a short supper with them, then my oldest step-sister Becky came and picked me up, I had to get home to Raina and my own treatment Thursday morning, which dad took me to.  
I was so convinced that I was done.  I told my Kelly to take the IV out, I was done.  Well, that didn't happen, her and Dr. P. talked me right into leaving it, since it was so hard to get in the first place, and the fact that I hadn't jerked it out with my episode (Kelly felt bad, she said later that she should have waited longer after the pre-meds before starting the Taxol), so I finished that one, but told them I wasn't doing the last two. 
And I was certain… until I got home and had a heart to heart with Rhenner.  He questioned me about the bruises on my arm from the IVs. I told him that I wasn't as lucky as he was, he had the pic-line which meant he didn't have to get stuck every time he had chemo, but mommy got pricked (several times) every time.  I told him I thought I was done, honestly without thinking that I was saying this to my 6 year old son, who was pretty much going through the same thing I was.  His little face kinda scruched up, and I saw the wheels turning.  I knew I'd made a mistake, so I asked him what he thought I should do.  His words, "Mom, I think you should keep going, you only have two more and I know you can do this."  Can anyone say, more tears????  So, needless to say, on the morning of November 2nd, I called my Kelly and told her to call in my pre-meds, I wasn't done yet! 

Rhen continued his treatments throughout the holidays, his first MRI after having chemo, was on January 4th, 2010 (another one of those warped moments in my life...it was on January 4th back in 1993 was when Mom passed away).  As soon as Rhen wakes, we head up to Dr. P's (Shan was pushing me in a wheelchair with Rhen snuggled up on my lap, the MRI's always make him sick....I'm seriousily looking forward to the day when he will lay still and doesn't have to be put to sleep.)  Dr. P informed us that the tumor was still there, but that it had shrunk greatly.  He wanted to consult with the other team members and said he'd call me with his decision, so for now the pic-line stays in.  He called and said let's keep the same routine that we had before, so another 18 weeks of Morgantown.  I gave MiMim Joyce somewhat of a break, she stayed with Raina on Wednesday's while Shan and I took Rhenner for his treatments.  I was still quite tired, but I was done with treatments, so nothing was going to stop me from being with Rhen.  (Even as old and feeble as I felt, I was up every morning with my kids.  I'm not sure how much of a help I was with doing the everyday things for them, Joyce and Shannon pretty much kept house and fed us, I ached that much, but to play some board games and spend time with my kids, those moments, through every little ache, was well worth it.  We learned that a little dirt and some crazy meals were all right.)
Rhen practicing with the WVU football team...showing em' how to be tough
Rhenner finished up his second round of treatments in early May.  He needed to be at Morgantown on the 18th of May at 5:15 for pre-regristration, with the MRI first thing on the morning of the 19th.  We stayed in a hotel that night, thinking maybe Rhen wouldn't be as upset, but it wasn't the case, he knew what was coming and cried himself to sleep.  The MRI went well, then up to Dr. P’s we went.  The tumor was gone!!!!!  Blessed isn't a strong enough word to describe how we felt.  His pic-line came out that day, which made him a happy camper...he was ready for the swimming pool!! 



So, you asked what the experience has taught us...it's taught us quite a bit, the obvious being never take anything for granted.  But in all honesty, it has taught us not to sweat the small stuff, and even when you're going through hell, keep the chin up, smile (even if it's forced, cause there was quite a few times that the brave, fearless little lady everyone saw, was fake!! ;0) ) And always, always be thankful for every minute you get with someone...you can never say I Love You enough!!!  It's been unbelievable and humbling to me the amount of people that cared!  All of the prayers and well wishes can never be repaid, but we are and always will be so grateful!!! 

I don't really have any advice outside of, don't be afraid to ask for help, or accept help, whether or not you asked for it.  I honestly wasn't more happy than when I had the energy to do my own laundry (mind you, that passed quickly *LOL*).  Have a sense of humor and turn it all over to God, even if it doesn't make sense, He has all the answers, we just need to let him into our lives.  We don't go to a church, not because we don't believe, cause we are firm believers!!  (We're proof that prayers are answered!!)  I've always had the belief that I didn't need to be between any certain four walls to talk to Him, I still believe that to do this day, besides, I don't want to upset anyone, and there have been so many that have asked us to come to their place of worship, I feel that without meaning to, we'd end up stepping on someones toes. 
Tammy, Survivor! and daughter Raina
Now, the fun question!!!!  *LOL*  Are you still with me???  Didn't know you were going to get a novel did ya???  Do I ever want to slap whiners???  Oh hell yeah!!!!!  *S*  I won't go into length (oh why not, right, I haven't held back yet!!  *LOL*), but yes, when someone starts wimping and whining about not finding the right size whatever, or how bad the service was somewhere, or their hair just won't do this or that,  or something that is so not worth the thought the first time, let alone a second time to repeat to whoever will listen...I get a bit testy...maybe not with them, but in my own mind...and while I'm there, I'm silently yelling at these mindless people, “Hey, life is hard!!! And it's not pretty sometimes, so until you've walked in the path of darkness and faced some of the real demons head on, don't whine about the small stuff...cause that's what it is, small stuff, and it really shouldn't be sweated!!!!”
Life is Good. :)

5 comments:

  1. Wow. Miss Tammy, God bless you and your precious family. Thank you so much for sharing this amazing story. You have reminded me to embrace the things that really matter, and to the let the other things fall by the wayside.

    And Elizabeth, bless you for letting Tammy share this.

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  2. Tammy's story is one we should all here. It was my pleasure to help her share it.

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  3. Christina Glover-DavisSeptember 5, 2011 at 7:42 PM

    Such a wonderful beautiful story. My heart is truly warmed beyond words.

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  4. What a story, thank you for sharing, it sure makes you stop and think about things, May God continue to bless Tammy and her family.

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  5. What a story, thank you for sharing, it sure makes you stop and think about things, May God continue to bless Tammy and her family.

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