Local cancer survivor shares her story, emphasizes resources available through ACS

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio – The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life event has always held a special place in the hearts of participants and local residents Don and Tammy Lemley, even before Tammy’s late 2013 diagnosis of breast cancer. Today, Tammy is proud to say she is a cancer survivor and is now a member of the leadership team for Knox County’s Relay for Life.

Just before Thanksgiving 2013, Lemley discovered a lump in her left breast. After making it through an anxious holiday season, she had a mammogram after which doctors told her she would need a surgical consult. Following was a biopsy, lumpectomy, sentinel lymph node biopsy, consults with more doctors for a treatment plan of chemotherapy, radiation and hormone therapy. “Once I heard the word ‘cancer,’ I didn’t hear anything else,” said Lemley. “My family and I were overwhelmed.”

Through their association with Relay for Life, her family quickly discovered the many resources available through the American Cancer
Society. “ACS played a huge part in walking with me through my journey. I attended the Look Good Feel Better program provided by ACS through Knox Community Hospital. The facilitator (cosmetologist) provided education about beauty techniques to help manage appearance-related side effects of my treatment,” Lemley said. “There were days of fatigue and no energy, so this was a great class and very helpful.”

Tammy also received a “cost-free” wig from ACS, in addition to articles and education on resources for staying healthy and active during and after treatment, advice for caregivers and survivorship care plans. “The ACS is a great resource to help know and understand the right questions to ask along the way,” she said. One of the greatest goals of ACS is to find a cure for cancer–it is the nation’s largest private, not-for-profit investor in cancer research. As Lemley explained, “ACS funded the research for a drug known as Herceptin, which ultimately saved my life.”

Now, as a survivor, Relay for Life means more than ever to Lemley and her family. “We’re representing the survivors and caregiver groups this year on Relay’s leadership team,” she said. “It’s so important for our community to understand the impacts of cancer and how it affects everyone, from survivors, caregivers, families, friends and community members.”

Tammy and her husband Don have four children, ages 26, 21, 13 and 8. As she stated, “I have discovered that I wear many different hats that include, a wife, mother, friend, sister, daughter, chef, nurse, children’s church leader, cheer coach, girl scout leader and employee. There were times throughout my treatment that I struggled with which hats I could actually wear. My faith and support from my husband, children, friends and staff at the Center for Cancer Care, and the American Cancer Society have helped me and my family throughout my journey.”

The Relay For Life movement is the world’s largest fundraising event to fight every cancer in every community, with four million participants in 5,000 events worldwide in 2016. Last year, more than 450 people participated in the Relay For Life of Knox County and raised $269,000. The 2017 Knox County Relay for Life will be held June 16-17 at Mount Vernon High School football stadium.

Visit relayforlife.org/knoxco to learn more about the event, or contact Carrie Haver at 740-398-6603 or Sarah Thomas at sarah.thomas@cancer.org.

*About the American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society is a global grassroots force of 2.5 million volunteers saving lives and fighting for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. As the largest voluntary health organization, the Society’s efforts have contributed to a 22 percent decline in cancer death rates in the U.S. since 1991, and a 50 percent drop in smoking rates. Thanks in part to our progress; 14.5 million Americans who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will celebrate more birthdays this year. We’re determined to finish the fight against cancer. We’re finding cures as the nation’s  largest private, not-for-profit investor in cancer research, ensuring people facing cancer have the help they need and continuing the fight for access to quality health care, lifesaving screenings, clean air, and more. For more information, to get help, or to join the fight, call us anytime, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.