Tamara’s Fight with Melanoma Story
“My Motto: ”This is only a few years of my life, not a lifetime. I am going to get through this. God will have an open pathway for me to follow to get me where I need to go. So I will put on the armor of God and I will put my trust in him and he is going to see me through.” My name is Tamara Fowler and I am 32 years old. I live in Mississippi and have been diagnosed with (stage four) metastatic melanoma.” Tamara is one of the many people fighting the awful disease known as cancer. She shared with us her journey and her inspiring melanoma story of how she continues to fight and move forward regardless of cancer.
So, we asked Tamara about the beginning of her journey: the diagnosis. “I am receiving treatments at MD Anderson . The first thing that went through my mind when I found out that I had cancer was that ‘I could die.’ It was a complete shock. I am married to my loving husband, Richard and have a beautiful two-year-old daughter, Tabitha. Richard and I will be married 10 years in September, 2016. The one thing that continued to go through my mind was that ‘I don’t want to die; I want to survive!’ The first day that I walked into the melanoma and skin clinic, I saw a sign posted on the beams that said ‘you became a survivor as soon as you were diagnosed.’ That statement made me realize that perhaps this is what’s been wrong with me, this is what has had me down in life. A wake up call!! I have had fatigue, anxiety/depression, struggling every morning to get out of bed to go to work, clean house, do laundry, cook breakfast/supper and give Tabitha the proper care needed. CANCER, I call it the devil!!!”
So how did this whole journey begin? Sometimes there are symptoms, sometimes people just go in for an annual exam and the doctor finds something. Tamara gave us a quick summary of her journey with “the devil!!!”
“My story with melanoma began 10 years ago. It all started with a mole on my upper back. It was located in a place where I could not see it. My sister happened to notice it one day and suggested that I get the mole seen about. So, I went to my dermatologist, had a biopsy, and it was determined that I had melanoma. My dermatologist referred me to a doctor in Jackson, Mississippi. Once there, I had surgery to remove my sentinel lymph node to determine if the cancer had spread. Days go by and still no results. Finally, I get a call from the doctor’s office. They suggested that I bring someone with me to go over my results. My husband, mom, dad and I go to Jackson. When we arrive, they have us go into a room and sit down at a table. I can remember the doctor’s face and the fear he had in his eyes when he sat down at the table with us. He said “we lost your lymph node”. I’m thinking ”how is this possible and what does this mean?” He said he did not understand how this happened, but he remembered removing the lymph node and giving it to the tech. He certainly did apologize for what happened. He said he could perform another surgery, a surgery he had never performed before, or I could get a second opinion. I said second opinion. So, my doctor referred me to MD Anderson. The doctors and staff in Jackson, Mississippi were wonderful and generous. They helped us with flights, food, gas, and lodging when I had to go back and forth. Even though they made a mistake, I am grateful for how they treated me and my family. My doctor at MD Anderson removed more lymph nodes, but we will never know if there were melanoma cells in the sentinel lymph node. I thought my time with melanoma was over. So, here I am 10 years later. My recent biopsies confirmed that this is the same melanoma I had 10 years ago. Definitely a shock! Now that I know what I have, I can keep going and do what I can to fight this battle.”
Tamara’s crazy story and her constant fight is what makes her story so incredible. Regardless of the obstacles thrown at her, she hasn’t given up. Tamara shared with us her plan to continue fighting and updates on her current treatments for cancer, “I feel my weakness makes me a stronger person. I am believing in the Lord and I will not fear because I know he has a CURE for me!!!! My treatment has changed since the first post. Due to my insurance, I was rejected for the clinical trial that I went to MD Anderson for. They did start me on one medication. I will be going to Houston every three weeks for an IV infusion for possibly the next two years. The doctors will perform scans and other test after so many treatments to see if there is any change (good is what I’m hoping for)!! So far I have only had a few side effects from the treatment, but over all I am doing well. My Tabby Claire surely keeps me going! I want all of you to know how appreciative I am for the prayers and generous donations that have been given to me. These donations are helping me with my travel to Houston, lodging, food and gas.”
Finally, Tamara shared one of the inspirational quotes she uses to stay motivate. “’Peace I leave you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.’ John 14:27. I know this verse has helped me and is continuing to help me through this journey. For anyone who is going through a battle, we can look back and read this verse and know he is by our side every step of the way.”