Wife, mom, inspiration
ABOUT TAMI, IN HER OWN WORDS:
- I graduated from Penn State University and spent 20 years in publishing, selling advertising for some of the most prestigious magazine brands.
- I’m blessed with a loving husband and two beautiful girls, an amazing family, and close friends. They give me a reason to fight as hard as I can.
- Having my family close to me has been critical in this journey. They are my rock and the source of my courage and positive outlook on life.
I often wonder why this happened to me, and sometimes I get angry about it. But then I move on to say it did happen, so how can I make each day meaningful? I see silver linings with greater clarity and experience love and human kindness on a deeper level. I call it “cancer clarity.” Each moment is magnified, and the lens through which I see the important things in life is crystal clear to me.
Growing up, I was taught that with hard work, dreams could come true. I graduated from Penn State University and spent 20 years in publishing, selling advertising for some of the most prestigious magazine brands. I traveled to 24 countries and appreciated the diversity in our world, but I always came home feeling proud to live in the USA. In 2006, I met my husband online, and we started our life together in New York City. When our two daughters were born, our family was complete.
Living and working in NYC was great, but I wanted to be more involved in my children’s lives. We decided to move to the suburbs to live closer to my parents and sister so that our children could grow up together. I resigned from my job, thinking I would take a break from work for a few years until the girls were both in elementary school.
Blindsided By Breast Cancer
After our move I decided to get a checkup since I needed to find a new primary care doctor anyway. I got a clean bill of health, and although no lumps were found in the clinical breast exam, my doctor noticed that it had been 20 months since my baseline mammogram. She encouraged me to get one in the next few months. I did, but when the results came back, they didn’t match my baseline. I had no history of breast cancer in my family and was only 41 years old, so I was surprised by what came next.
I remember when they suggested I get an MRI, I thought, “That’s ridiculous, why do I need an MRI?” The MRI revealed that I needed three breast biopsies: two in my left breast and one in my lymph node.
Do you know where you were standing when you heard JFK had been shot or when you found out about 9/11? These are unforgettable life-changing moments. April 23rd was like that for me. My husband and I were taking a weekend trip, just the two of us, when the breast surgeon called to tell me all three biopsies were malignant. I actually said to her, “I’m sure you know what you’re doing, but are you looking at the right chart?”
In a second, my world turned upside down—my perspective on life changed forever. There is something about hearing those words, “You have cancer,” that sends a shiver down your spine and gets your head in a tizzy because you think you are going to die.
My husband and I cried most of that weekend. We were in shock and disbelief, but we pulled it together to attend a close friend’s bar mitzvah. At the event, I sat next to a woman I had never met. We started talking, and for some reason, I felt compelled to tell her I wasn’t myself because I had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. She looked at me, held my hand, and told me that she was a survivor! I resolved to fight this, whatever it took.
The next week, I met with two breast surgeons and two reconstructive surgeons. I was ready to have a double mastectomy and start on chemo, but my hospital advised me to get a PET scan to make sure nothing had spread. When a spot was found on my liver, more tests were needed, including a liver MRI and liver biopsy.
Coping With An MBC Diagnosis
I thought April 23rd was the worst day of my life. I was wrong. The worst day of my life was May 9th, the day I found out that my breast cancer had metastasized to my liver. This made my diagnosis Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. All I could think about were my daughters—ages two and five at the time. I thought and prayed: “I have to be alive to raise my children. They’re just babies. Please give me the strength to fight this battle and beat all the odds.”
I decided not to tell my daughters that I have cancer—not yet. It’s my maternal instinct to protect them as long as I can and to enjoy every little moment with them. Of course, I worry about how many birthdays I will get to share with my children—but as my mom often says, it’s not about the years in your life; it’s about the life in your years. So right now I’m making the most of every day, and I’m happy to see my children dance in ballet class and swing on the bars in gymnastics. I get all the pictures and videos I can—and I make sure I’m in them—and we continue to create memories that will last forever.
Learning About IBRANCE
Fortunately, the power of science and technology are there to help me in this fight. My oncologist told me, “Yes, it sucks that you got this diagnosis. But there’s a medication approved by the FDA called IBRANCE that might be an option for you.” She explained that IBRANCE is an oral medication taken in combination with letrozole, an aromatase inhibitor. It’s for the first-line treatment of postmenopausal women with HR+/HER2- metastatic breast cancer, like mine. She told me how I might experience some potentially serious and common side effects, including low white blood cell counts and fatigue.
So far my doctor and I have been happy with my results. I have experienced serious and common side effects, including low white blood cell count and mouth sores. My doctor reduced my dose, and she continues to closely monitor my white blood cell counts. Please remember, this is my experience and everyone is different. I know my results so far don’t mean I’ve won, but the fight continues every day.
Strength From Support
Having my family close to me has been critical in this journey. They are my rock and the source of my courage and positive outlook on life. I am named for my great-grandmother Tovah, and I am so grateful to the cousins who organized a prayer service at her grave so that her spirit would help protect me and give my family strength. I have been amazed and blessed by everyone’s outpouring of support. That support has helped me appreciate every day.
On a typical day, I wake up with a kiss from my husband and my kids climbing on top of me in my bed. In my kitchen, I’m surrounded by my kids’ artwork. When I look through my closet, I can choose the T-shirt my neighbor gave me that says “It’s a good day” or bangles from my best friend that read Warrior, Forever Friends, and One Day at a Time. I’ve had friends who baked challah, raised money, or ran marathons in my honor. Others have said prayers for me and say I inspire them. And that’s what continues to inspire me.
My father always told me life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. So, I choose to spend 90% of my time staying strong for my children, striving to keep my faith stronger than my fear, and focusing on loving and living in the present as best I can. Do things that make you smile. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good. And don't forget to get a little silly sometimes—laughter is good medicine.