A strong support system: Doesn’t matter if it’s a family member, friend or neighbor. Your support system is vital during your battle with cancer. There will be days when you can’t do a typical task and you’re going to need help from others. I am grateful for those who aided me while I was battling cancer.
Cancer is a horrible and terrifying disease. Yet millions of people have beaten the odds and beat cancer. Authority Magazine started a new series called “I Survived Cancer and Here Is How I Did It”. In this interview series, we are talking to cancer survivors to share their stories, in order to offer hope and provide strength to people who are being impacted by cancer today. As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tamron Little.
Tamron Little, MA, was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma at the age of 21. As a 15+ year cancer survivor, writer, and speaker, she shares her unique story about this rare disease. It’s her mission to inspire and spread hope to others, which is why she became an Asbestos.com contributing writer and partnered with Bristol Myers Squibb’s Survivorship Today, a series that aims to help advance our collective understanding of what it’s like to live with cancer today.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! We really appreciate the courage it takes to publicly share your story. Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your background and your childhood backstory?
I have a bachelor’s degree in communications — media studies, and a master’s degree in public relations. It took me seven years to go back to college after my cancer diagnosis, but I did it! Since I started my working career, I’ve somehow landed in the healthcare field, juggling life as a wife, mom of four, an ordained minister, writer and a content creator. If you’ve heard me speak before I’m sure you caught a southern twang as they say. I get asked all the time, “Where are you from?” I was born and raised in the great southern state of North Carolina. I’m the oldest of four children, as well as the first grandchild. Born to a teenage mom, I was mostly raised by my grandparents who couldn’t tell me ‘no.’ Yep, I was spoiled. They say that what you do as a kid will determine what you will do as an adult. I used to create my own radio and talk shows. I would grab my grandma’s coffee cup and head to the bathroom, where I would jump on the counter and go at it with my talk show episodes. Fast forward to today, I’m able to speak and share my experience and testimony with others. I’m sure my talk show will be next!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
You have the power and authority to command your day! No matter what happened the day before, whether good or bad, today is a new day. Some people don’t know how much control they have over their minds and thought processes. We choose how to react to certain situations. If we recognize that the situation may not change when we want it to, but how we perceive it will, our perspective will change the way we go through a certain situation.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about surviving cancer. Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story surrounding how you found out that you had cancer?
Of course! I was a college student when I found out I was pregnant. During a routine ultrasound, I learned I was having a baby boy and that I had a fibroid tumor. My medical team reassured me that fibroids were normal for women my age. Not knowing much about it at the time, I went with it. Months after giving birth I had a follow up ultrasound, which showed the tumor had grown. As a precautionary measure my doctor advised surgery to remove the tumor. Little did I know that my life would change drastically. After surgery my doctor told me the surgery went well and my vitals looked good. Before he left the room, he said, “You have cancer — peritoneal mesothelioma to be exact.” So, the “fibroid” wasn’t a fibroid, but cancer. I had been initially misdiagnosed.
What was the scariest part of that event? What did you think was the worst thing that could happen to you?
The scariest part was being told that the prognosis was poor and that I had an estimated 18 months to live.
How did you react in the short term?
To be honest I went into shock mode. I best explain it as a tornado. I was the eye and if you’re familiar with a tornado you know that within the eye, it’s still. Nothing is happening. But when you go outside of the eye everything is chaotic. That’s how I felt in that moment.
After the dust settled, what coping mechanisms did you use? What did you do to cope physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?
After the initial shock I was in a denial stage followed by a ‘why me?’ stage. Then, my crazy faith kicked in and I knew God was going to help guide me. My prayer life increased, as well as my growing connection with my church family. The coping mechanism I used was not being present in the moment, which is something I don’t recommend. My body was present, but my mind wasn’t. This caused anxiety and depression years later. I believe it’s important to be present and allow yourself to feel the feelings in order to process what’s taking place in your life at that moment.
Is there a particular person you are grateful towards who helped you learn to cope and heal? Can you share a story about that?
My husband! Actually, we didn’t get married until after I was diagnosed and went through treatment. That definitely says a lot! I’m sure I know of some men who would have left once cancer came on the scene. My husband stood by my side the entire time. He became my caregiver, as well as a new dad. He took on a hefty role and I’m grateful to God for bringing him into my life. Even at times when things got really rough, he stuck it out with me. Talk about love!
In my own cancer struggle, I sometimes used the idea of embodiment to help me cope. Let’s take a minute to look at cancer from an embodiment perspective. If your cancer had a message for you, what do you think it would want or say?
Things aren’t always what they appear to be.
What did you learn about yourself from this very difficult experience? How has cancer shaped your worldview? What has it taught you that you might never have considered before? Can you please explain with a story or example?
Cancer showed me that I’m strong, resilient, my own best advocate and that miracles do happen! My worldview and how I approach situations have changed in that I face it with faith instead of fear. It has taught me that patient advocacy is vital. Don’t settle for a poor prognosis as the end result, get a second opinion and advocate for yourself!
How have you used your experience to bring goodness to the world?
Yes, very much so. Sharing my story is an inspiration to others. Being able to tell others about my experience and how I overcame obstacles brings them hope where they may have lost hope. I know that my experience is unique in its own way and that someone would be blessed by hearing it. That is why I recently spoke about this in the Survivorship Today “In Her Shoes: Life as a Black Woman Cancer Survivor” panel, which can be seen on SurvivorshipToday.com. I hope others will recognize that by sharing their story, they may help another cancer survivor feel less alone.
What are a few of the biggest misconceptions and myths out there about fighting cancer that you would like to dispel?
There’s a good cancer and a bad cancer. Not true. Cancer is cancer, and although there are many different types, there’s no good or bad.
Thinking that since you’ve completed treatment and entered into survivorship status that you don’t think about cancer, and everything goes back to normal. Cancer is a battle in your body and mind, therefore it’s something that will impact you for life. Physically, due to scars, side effects from treatment, and even mentally.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experiences and knowledge, what advice would you give to others who have recently been diagnosed with cancer? What are your “5 Things You Need To Beat Cancer?
- A strong support system: Doesn’t matter if it’s a family member, friend or neighbor. Your support system is vital during your battle with cancer. There will be days when you can’t do a typical task and you’re going to need help from others. I am grateful for those who aided me while I was battling cancer.
- Prayer: I had so many people praying for me. My church family got together and prayed for me regularly. I’m a firm believer that prayer works.
- A good medical team: It took me some time to find the “one,” but when I did, oh boy, it was a sigh of relief. I found a specialist in my town. I’m so grateful to the doctor who took on my case and reassured me that he would take good care of me. That’s exactly what he did.
- Mental health support: I couldn’t stress enough that your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Don’t ignore your mental state during your cancer journey.
- Embrace Small Victories: As a cancer survivor, the smallest things are also victories. Being able to feed yourself after you just had surgery, being able to dress yourself, even fix your own meals are all small victories that some take for granted until you can’t do it on your own.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be?
It would be to create a community of support, fellowship, and inspiration for cancer survivors. It’s the reason I share my story as part of Survivorship Today. Many times, cancer survivors are somewhat left to pick up the pieces and return to their “normal” lives once they complete treatment. I want people to get a better understanding of what a person goes through physically and mentally having cancer. This would be a community effort to equip cancer survivors with the tools, education, navigation, and resources they need to redefine what their new normal is.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂
My first choice would be Michelle Obama. She’s a woman of grace and excellence. She’s intelligent and has made a game-changing footprint on the world especially for Black women. My other choice is Kierra Sheard Kelly. Her vibe and anointing lights up a room. She unapologetically and boldly spreads the gospel!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I’m pretty much on most social media platforms @Tamronlittle and https://www.asbestos.com/author/tamron-little/ for various articles I’ve written. They can also learn more about my story on SurvivorshipToday.com.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!