By CATHY MOUNCE, Register Staff Writer
The last thing Gainesville Fire and Rescue administrative assistant and emergency management officer Tamara Sieger expected to experience in 2010 was cancer.
Sieger who was 39 years old at the time had always been proactive about her health and thought she was a low risk for the dreaded disease.
She found out cancer doesn’t discriminate and can affect anyone at anytime.
After a regular gym workout, Sieger was surprised to discovered a lump in her breast.
“I guess I thought with my active lifestyle that I was somehow immune to cancer but with losing my 19-year-old brother to leukemia and my dad being a cancer survivor, I shouldn’t have been so surprised.” Sieger said. “But when I discovered the lump and doctors said that it was a stage 3 invasive carcinoma of the lymph node, it definitely got my attention quickly.”
After the diagnosis, Sieger spent a long year in chemotherapy and IV infused treatments prior to a mastectomy to remove three tumors fueled by estrogen.
“Some people ask why I didn’t have the mastectomy first,” Sieger said. “ My doctors wanted to reduce the size of the lumps and potentially terminate any other cancerous areas that might be forming. While taking the chemo treatments they were continually watching to make sure the therapy was working. It made sense to me and I’m glad I did it that way.”
After chemotherapy, Sieger endured 33 daily radiation treatments at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas where her doctors were.
After radiation, Sieger went through six surgeries in 24 months including reconstructive surgeries.
“Cancer is not just a destroyer of the body and tissue,” Sieger explained. “ It is a journey to recover physically, spiritually and psychologically.”
“You face questions of mortality,” she said. “ You can ask yourself ‘Why me?’ or you can say ‘Why not me and just deal with it?’”
Sieger said her difficult journey was not without some positive aspects.
“I learned more about myself and although my journey with cancer was not something I wanted to go through, it did elevate my Christian faith even higher and profoundly made me a better person,” she said.
Sieger said she also feels indebted to her family, friends and community for their lasting support.
She said she believes it’s important to remember when you receive assistance from others, be grateful and know that as they bless you with their love and effort, you are returning those blessings.
“I can never pay back all I received but I can pay it forward some how,” she explained. “So the blessings continue like ripples on the water.”
Sieger is an avid supporter for Relay for Life, the upcoming cancer fundraising event held each May.
“Relay for Life is something I can support to make a difference for those that cancer has affected,” she said.
Sieger’s fire department buddies have nicknamed her “Taz” so the name “Team Taz” has been given to the Relay for Life team she has formed.
“The main thing is that by working together we’re raising money to defeat cancer once and for all,” she said.
Some of the items Team Taz will raffle off at the fundraiser are a Smith & Wesson 22, a one hour massage, a spa basket, and a manicure-pedicure. Tickets for the raffle items can be purchased one for $10 or three for $20
Sieger has to go through frequent checkups to make sure the cancer has not returned and looks forward to being cancer free after five years without a reoccurrence.
“Having my life interrupted was the hardest part,” Sieger continued. “I am ready to not only get back to my life but to help make a difference for others.”
“Like the American Cancer Society says, ‘I want less cancer and more birthdays,’” Sieger smiled. “ I look forward to the next 50 at least.”
To find more about Team Taz email Sieger at Tazfd71@hotmail.com.