by Julie McKenna
Nearly a decade ago, Tammy Faye Messner faced one of the biggest challenges of her life: colon cancer. She underwent surgery to successfully remove the cancer and returned to a healthy life. Now, eight years later, her cancer has returned.
But Tammy Faye is determined that she will beat cancer again and she won’t let it get her down. “The same way that I got through cancer before is how I will get through it again. And that’s my faith in God, and getting good doctor’s care,” declares Tammy Faye.
During her routine, yearly check-up, her blood sample indicated to her doctor that her cancer had returned. After undergoing a series of X-rays and CAT scans to locate the cancer, her doctor found a spot on her lung and performed a lung biopsy.
“They found out, of course, that it is cancer. But it isn’t lung cancer, it’s colon cancer that has spread to the lung. It’s related to the colon cancer I had eight years ago,” explains Tammy Faye. “But they gave me a very good prognosis because of that. They said if it was actual lung cancer, if it was a new cancer that had just started, that it would be more difficult to control.”
The first part of cancer is can. I can beat it!Tammy Faye
The cancer is located on Tammy Faye’s left lung and is inoperable because it is so close to her heart. “They also found out I have a paralyzed left vocal cord, but that there is no growth on the vocal cord,” she says. “The nerves that go from the vocal cord down past the heart are wrapped in cancer. And so I have a really hard time talking and I cannot sing at all anymore, which makes me sad because I’ve sung all my life.”
Tammy Faye began her chemotherapy treatments in April, which will be followed by radiation. “I’m a very practical person,” states Tammy Faye. “I know that Jesus heals in a lot of different ways. I know that chemotherapy is one of the ways that healing can take place in the body.”
Coincidentally, just six months ago Tammy Faye published her third book, I Will Survive… And You Will, Too!, in which she writes about how she survived the challenges and ordeals throughout her life.
“Can you believe that?” Tammy Faye asks when I mention her new book. “I mean, it was like I was talking to myself without even knowing! I thought I’d faced all of the challenges in my life – I really did. And so I wrote that book not having any idea that I was going to have to face one of the biggest challenges in my life again!”
Not only did Tammy Faye survive cancer eight years ago, but so did her husband, Roe. He has been living with prostate cancer for eight years and feels great, says Tammy Faye.
“I think Roe knew I had cancer again before I did. I think he had a premonition. I had a feeling too, but I refused to believe the cancer had come back again,” Tammy Faye admits.
Tammy Faye’s acceptance and “can-do” attitude is due in large part to Roe’s support. “I think what people need to do is talk to each other,” says Tammy Faye. “Don’t be afraid to talk to your family. So many people don’t want to talk about it and then they have to bear it all by themselves. And that’s too much for one person. Call somebody.”
Tammy Faye’s recent appearance on Larry King Live has proven that she also has support from people all over the world. “I went on Larry King and talked about my cancer and we have already received over 2,000 e-mails,” Tammy Faye says. “And every single one said, ‘We’re praying for you.’ I sit every day and read those e-mails and I realize that people all over this nation and overseas are praying for me. And I can’t not get well.”
Tammy Faye’s faith in God and support from her husband and friends are giving her strength to fight cancer for a second time. “I’m not afraid even though I get scared sometimes,” she confides. “But I’m not afraid that they won’t be able to get all the cancer because I believe that they will.”
Tammy Faye continues, “I have a fun spirit. I think attitude is everything, and I’ve always believed that no matter what, you’ve got to have fun. I’m not going to let this get me down. The first part of cancer is can. I can beat it!”
Take Tammy Faye’s advice: call somebody. There are many organizations you can contact to talk about cancer, including the American Cancer Society, (800) ACS-2345, and the National Cancer Institute, (800) 4-CANCER.
This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, May/June 2004.
Editor’s Note: Tammy Faye passed away on July 20, 2007.