Calhoun: ‘Blessed’ and proud to serve Relay

Published 10:03 pm Thursday, March 24, 2011

Not many people have a hand in saving their own lives.

But because of her persistence and the intervention of the Holy Spirit, Tammy Calhoun, the honorary chair of the 2011 Pike County Relay for Life campaign, had that opportunity.

In May 2009, on the recommendation of her family doctor, Calhoun made an appointment with a colon and rectal specialist. She left the appointment “thankful” that nothing serious was wrong.

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However, call it women’s intuition or divine intervention, the lingering symptoms continued to cause Calhoun concern.

“One day I was watching television and saw a program on Farrah Fawcett who had rectal cancer and her symptoms were the same as mine,” Calhoun said. “I went back to the doctor and asked to have a colonoscopy done. A colonoscopy was not recommended because I was 41 years old and that’s 10 years below the recommended age to have that procedure.”

At her insistence, Calhoun underwent the procedure but without great concern. “The doctor had told me that I was fine, ‘no problems,’ but she was wrong,” Calhoun said. “After the colonoscopy, the doctor, who assured me that I was fine, told me I had an eight–inch tumor. I had cancer.

“I prayed, “God, please don’t let me die over her mistake,” Calhoun said

Calhoun would have to wait over “the longest weekend” to find out whether the cancer had spread.

“It had not and that was a real blessing,” she said. “I was told that I had to have extensive radiation treatments to shrink the tumor before I had the surgery to remove it. When I got to the cancer center, I was shocked to find out that I had to have radiation and chemo.”

After the surgery, Calhoun thought that she would be finished with her treatments but she was not.

She was back on chemotherapy for six months – a three-hour session once a week for six weeks, then two weeks off.

The treatment process was a long one but Calhoun was richly blessed in that she was able to continue to work as a speech pathologist with the Pike County School System and be an “active” mom to her two young children. “I was so blessed to be able to do that,” she said.

Calhoun is now cancer free but will not be considered in remission until five years of being cancer free have passed.

“I know how blessed I am to be here,” she said. “And, if I had not been proactive in my own care, I might not be. If I had gone along believing that I was ‘fine’ like the doctor said, the cancer could have spread to the extent that I don’t even want to think about.

“And, if the doctor had recommended the colonoscopy eight months earlier, the cancer would have been found before it grew to eight inches. That’s why I encourage everyone to be proactive in his or her own health care. We know our bodies better than anyone and, if you don’t feel that something is right, trust yourself. Doing so could save you life. It did mine.”

Calhoun that she is truly honored to be the honorary chair of the 2011 Pike County Relay for Life campaign.

“I want to do all that I can to make people realize that we all have a responsibility for our health care,” she said. “And, if you are having symptoms, don’t assume that just because you’re below the recommended age for a colonoscopy that you’re ‘all right.’ Trust yourself and take care of yourself.

“And, too, I want everyone to know that the dollars that are given to Relay are making a difference. I know that I benefited from the cancer research that has been done. I didn’t lose my hair due to the chemo and the chemo hardly made me sick. Every day advances in detection and treatments are being made and every day lives are being saved because people are so generous in their giving. If there’s any good that I can do, I want to do it because somebody did it before for me.”