Pancreatic cancer will not bring me down
Organized by: Tracy Tatum
Tracy Tatum via Crowdrise
December 13, 2014
Many of you have been asking me how you can help, and I finally found something that is pulling at my heart strings. I'm going to first recap the events leading up to this message.
When my daughter Addison was 7.5 months old, I started having some vague symptoms, that made me concerned enough to go to the ER. After a month of tests, procedures, and scans, I finally was delivered the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. By the grace of God, it had not spread outside of the pancreas. I am currently enrolled in a clinical trial at the University of Miami Sylvester Cancer Center, where I have received an experimental pancreatic cancer vaccine, along with 12 rounds of chemo and 28 days of a chemo/radiation combo. These treatments have taken 1 year to complete. I responded well enough to treatment to be a candidate for an extensive, 11 hour surgery that hopefully removed all of the tumor. During the surgery, which was a month and a half ago, I had a laparoscopy to make sure that the cancer had not spread. After they determined that it appeared to have not, I had nanoknife surgery, a whipple procedure, vascular reconstruction carried out by the liver transplant team, and then intraoperative radiation. The whipple procedure involved removing my gall bladder, part of my pancreas, stomach, and small intestine, and then reconnecting all of the organs back together. I was in the hospital for 3 weeks, and could not eat any food or drink for over a month. The surgical reports are favorable, but unfortunately pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer and tends to return. There is currently a 6% cure rate. It has been a rough road, but I am in great spirits, and am determined to beat this. In one month, I will start 6 more months of chemo. I have at least 1-2 more years of recovery, and will need help along the way.
I have had so much support from my husband Paul, sister Kristin, and all of my friends. Most of all, I have had the ever loving support of my parents. This is where I am asking you for your help.
My mom is a fifth grade, gifted teacher at Binks Forest elementary, and has been teaching in the Palm Beach County school system for almost 30 years. Most of you have known my mom your whole lives as well. She has taught elementary school for many of you, and for many of your children. She has coached many of you or your children on the community swim team. She comes home after school and has spent hundreds if not thousands of hours tutoring children in reading and math. She is so good at what she does, that she is frequently asked to teach a different grade that may be struggling and needs help from the one and only Patty Tatum. For any of you that are teachers, you know this means hundreds of extra hours of lesson plans, reorganizing a new classroom, and hundreds of dollars spent for different school supplies to meet the needs of a new age group. None of these costs are reimbursed by the school system. Growing up, all of my friends knew her for her famous chicken squares, or her pasta parties for our swim team before a big swim meet, but you also knew her for her constant self-sacrificing. She has always done for others without ever thinking about doing anything for herself. She has taken the last year off of teaching, and is currently not receiving any income. She is living with me, taking care of Addison, me, my house and my 3 dogs. When Paul is home on the weekend, my mom goes home and spends all of her time cooking food for my dad for the week.
This brings me to my dad. My dad, Mike Tatum, had a major stroke 3 years ago. Fortunately, he recovered enough to be able to drive and return to work. He has worn many hats, but is currently teaching high school physics at Palm Beach Central. My dad always made us laugh growing up, whether it was his James Brown dancing, or his always amusing, one of a kind antics. Although he is still working, it has taken a pretty big toll on him. He is fatigued beyond belief, and is constantly getting sick from his over-stressed immune system. In addition, he is now living on his own since my mom is living in Miami with me. He really needs to retire, but they just aren't in a financial position to do so.
Words can't express the gratitude that I feel towards my parents for helping me through this toughest time of my life. I don't have to worry about Addison, because my mom does such an amazing job with her, and they love each other to pieces. When I don't have the strength, I am able to sleep in, veg out on the couch, have food brought to me, and be as stress free as possible so that I can use all of my energy to fight this battle. At the same time, I know that this puts even more financial pressure on my parents who didn't have much to begin with.
This is where I am asking you for help. I would like to start a fundraising campaign to help raise money for my parents, so that they don't have to feel such financial strain as they are sacrificing their time and income in order to provide me with the help I desperately need. I would love for my dad to be able to eventually retire and feel as well as possible.
My parents have touched the lives of thousands, and I want all of those people to know what my parents are doing for me now. You can forward this page via email, post or share it on your Facebook page, or just share my story with those you know. I whole-heartedly appreciate all of your help and support, in making this drive a success. My parents don't know that I'm doing this for them, and I can't imagine a better feeling for me, than being able to present them with a donation. Thank you for all of your support!