Perspective and Gratitude — Tammy's Story
Tammy Donohoe had seen her own mother go through some breast biopsies in the past, so when she had to have one after a routine mammogram screening, she tried to stay positive. But Donohoe wasn’t so lucky.
“Upon meeting Dr. Sam Miller for my consult, I was told the imaging looked ‘ominous of malignancy.’ I will never forget those words. I remember that day like it was yesterday,” she said. “I was a healthy 47-year-old, had worked as a nurse for 30 years, had done self-breast exams, had followed all the guidelines and now I had cancer? Words cannot describe how one feels when receiving news like this.”
She underwent a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy, which found that the cancer was in her lymph nodes as well.
“I would say this left me feeling a bit numb for days,” she said.
But Donohoe, a wife, mom and Nana to three beautiful grandchildren, took on the treatment that was prescribed exactly a month after her initial mammogram.
“I was blessed to have Dr. Siddique as my oncologist. I met with him on Sept. 25, 2017, and was not prepared to hear I would need 20 chemotherapy treatments, and that I would be starting chemo the following week,” she said. “I celebrated my 48th birthday that Tuesday, had a port placed Wednesday, and had my first chemo treatment that Thursday.
…this journey has given me a new perspective on life, and I am so grateful for every day."
After the treatments were completed, I was able to start my six weeks of radiation under the care of Dr. Thomas. I will take hormone blocker medications for 10 years and have six-month checks. I now see Dr. Chirla and Dr. Sechler for my continuation of care and cannot express how professional and kind they are to their patients.”
Donohoe said her six months of treatments were busy, full of doctor appointments, lab work and testing, and yet she was able to continue working.
“This helped me to maintain a sense of normalcy in my life,” she said. “The toughest part of the journey is the lack of control over your life. Worrying about the impact of your disease on your family, career and finances, losing my hair, body image issues due to surgery and medication side effects, and fatigue were all real concerns. There were days full of tears when I didn’t feel well physically or emotionally. Fear can play tricks on you mentally and keeping a positive outlook on life is crucial. I am blessed to have a wonderful husband, family, and friends, who supported me in so many ways.”
Donohoe said she appreciated her care team as well.
“I cannot say enough positive things about my experience at TidalHealth Nanticoke and the Allen Cancer Center. The staff was caring, informative, and supportive of me and my family. I had frequent contact with lab, radiology, registration, and surgical services at the hospital and can attest we have amazing, compassionate staff that were all part of my recovery,” she said. “We are blessed to have a comprehensive cancer care team in Seaford to provide such exceptional care so close to home. I will be ever grateful to each and every one of them.”
Donohoe said her cancer journey, though arduous, has brought her some positives as well. “Although I would not choose to be diagnosed with cancer, this journey has given me a new perspective on life, and I am so grateful for every day.”
"Live my bucket list. Live every day to the fullest. That is what I choose to do."
Despite the diagnosis, I found joy knowing God was using everything in my life for His glory as part of my journey. I realized that to be content is to realize at the end of my life what really matters is my relationship with Jesus, my relationship with the people I love, and whether I lived my life to the fullest. At one of my follow-up appointments with Dr. Miller, I was still searching to find an answer to why I had cancer. He told me I could chase for answers I won’t find, or I just simply live my life. Live my bucket list. Live every day to the fullest. That is what I choose to do.”
Donohoe says that anyone who finds themselves in her position should take one step at a time and not get too far ahead of themselves, because the journey can feel overwhelming.
“I encourage other fellow cancer patients to educate themselves on treatment options and make peace with their treatment decisions. I also encourage them to lean into their support system and allow others to help them. Family and friends are a gift.”
They are a gift for which Donohoe is eternally grateful.
“No one is guaranteed tomorrow. I am thankful for the gift of a new perspective on life since my breast cancer diagnosis. I am thankful for my family, friends, and caregivers. I could never express my gratitude for the acts of kindness and love shown to my family and myself.”
Become part of TidalHealth's Drive for Mobile Mammography. TidalHealth will be raising funds to bring a mobile mammography unit to Delmarva. This unit will drive to underserved areas to offer breast cancer screenings to our friends, families, and neighbors who may not have access to healthcare. Learn how you can donate and help us save lives.