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Mother Of Two Keeps Forging Ahead

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Tammy Frank and her husband Mike are two young entrepreneurs from Acworth, Georgia who have been married for fourteen years and are the proud parents of two wonderful children, Jacqueline who is 13 and George, age 10. They are a tightly-knit family who at one time enjoyed camping and trips to the ocean. They are also a family with deep religious beliefs, which at this time is very crucial to their current situation. You see, Tammy was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma in November of 2000.

It all began in January 1999, when Tammy began to experience severe abdominal pains that subsequently lead her to the local emergency room on two separate occasions. However, it wasn't until November 2000 when she again sought medical attention for the same pain that her physician discovered she had what was thought to be an ovarian cyst. Tammy was referred to a gynecologist whom she saw the next day. The gynecologist told Tammy she needed to have surgery immediately. On November 21, 2000, Tammy was to undergo a diagnostic laparoscopy, but when they attempted entry through her naval, they immediately discovered: omental adhesions to the anterior abdominal wall, all the way from the umbilicus into the pelvis. She had extensive scar tissue down in the pelvis which required a laparotomy in order to dissect the tubes and ovaries off the colon. The right ovary had some small excrescences on it. The tube on that side was adhered to the ovary. Both of these were adhered to the colon. She had a large left hydrosalpinx which was also stuck to her colon. What began as a minor procedure immediately turned into a full-blown invasive surgery to remove pelvic mass, rupture and clean adhesions attached throughout her pelvis and colon, and dissect her fallopian tubes and ovaries off the colon. Six specimens were taken and sent to the Mayo Clinic Pathology. Each specimen revealed Tammy Frank had Malignant Mesothelioma of Epithelial Type. The horror of hearing her diagnosis was only matched by what was next revealed.

THE SEARCH FOR TREATMENT

Tammy's doctor was unable to locate a physician in the entire state of Georgia who specialized in the treatment of mesothelioma so she was referred to a doctor at the Southeastern Oncology and Gynecology in Atlanta. He is treating Tammy as though she has ovarian cancer. He told her she was lucky they had caught her mesothelioma in its early stage and that her chances for survival were good. Tammy began chemotherapy treatments in December which consisted of paclitaxel (Taxol) combined with Carboplatin and administered once every three weeks. She experienced hair loss, nausea, vomiting and weight loss of 20 pounds. In January 2000, Tammy underwent another explorative procedure using a scope to determine whether the chemotherapy was working. It was then they found mesothelium on the liver, skin lining and her large intestine. The procedure was followed by three more chemotherapy treatments through a port she had installed in February. She began radiation treatments in June which she will receive every four to six weeks.

KEEPING UP APPEARANCES

Tammy Frank
Tammy has managed to keep an optimistic perspective through this whole ordeal with the help and love of her husband, children, and well-wishers she has never even met. She has received over 300 cards and letters from people who want to let Tammy know she is in their prayers. It becomes quite evident that Tammy has many people concerned for her when you call her home and get a recorded greeting detailing her current treatment schedule followed by a closing spiritual sentiment. Since Tammy is now unable to work and her medical bills keep building up, she says she prays for help to get through it all - and voilà! it is done. Some of her well-wishers have sent her little donations to help with her medical expenses. Tammy says, "I have put my trust in God, if what he wants is to take me that is fine, but there are so many things I would like to do for him. I feel that God is going to heal me."

When asked about her family and how they are handling her illness, she replied, "We have had a bad time not knowing if I was going to die. Jackie (her daughter) is handling it better, she remains active with her school band and serving as the school's Morning Show anchor girl. In the beginning my son [George] was afraid I was going to die. It's been pretty traumatic for them all." She speaks with adoring appreciation and admiration for her husband Mike who has had to do more around the house, taking on the added responsibility of "mother." Tammy says they have all learned to take one day at a time and be thankful for each day given. She adds, "We still have a long road to go but with help from my family, friends and lots of church we have made it this far."

Tammy is a very cheerful and loving individual but expresses her anger about the asbestos manufacturers who didn't care about the people whose lives they would be destroying, like hers and the possibility she may be taken from her children. She's mad and she fully intends to be a voice for fellow mesothelioma patients.

*** POSTED SEPTEMBER 5, 2001 ***

An Update -- 8/7/02

Tammy has completed her chemo and radiation therapies and is now scheduled for GI and small bowel testing to determine the nature of a cyst she has developed on her small intestine. Tammy was recently hospitalized for severe nausea, vomiting and lack of potassium - side effects from her radiation treatments. As a 1½-year survivor of mesothelioma, she recently participated in a Survivor Walk, sponsored by the American Cancer Society. She and her family keep optimistic by getting up every day and going on with their lives but at times find this task difficult when they are having to adjust to the loss of her income and medical bills that keep mounting. To add to her worries, her mother was recently diagnosed with asbestos-related lung disease.

An Update -- 8/21/03

Tammy continues to receive CT scans every three months; she is awaiting results from her last. Previous scans have shown there is a spot, however there are no appreciable changes between scans. Tammy had been experiencing severe pain which her primary care physician thought to be caused by scar tissue. When Tammy went to the pain clinic she was advised that a major nerve had been cut, thus causing her pain. She was then prescribed pain medication which included steroids. The steroids caused her to gain over 20 pounds. She goes to therapy for weight loss three days a week. She also visited Dr. Dan Miller at Emory who did a base-line PET and asked Tammy to follow-up with him every two years. She says she is still blessed with a great support network. The church is always there to help them with whatever they need.

An Update -- 5/29/09

Tammy is going on her ninth year as a mesothelioma survivor!

Her condition is monitored with yearly PET scans and blood work. Although Tammy’s doctor have said that the only way to be completely sure she’s is cancer-free is to undergo exploratory surgery, this is not feasible in her case so she’s essentially “living by fate.” Four years ago, Tammy was diagnosed with IC bladder disease, a painful bladder condition which was caused by the chemo eating away at her bladder lining. She is managing her pain well and learning to take one day at a time.

Tammy is immensely grateful for her family, friends and support groups for helping her through the years. At the cancer support group, Tammy is always there to listen and offer up any tips (“lemon is good for nausea!”) to help fellow cancer survivors. Her daughter, Jacqueline is graduating high school this year and her son George will be a senior in high school next year. She’s looking forward to focusing on herself and her marriage to her wonderful husband Mike once the kids are out of the house!

An Update -- 10/6/2009

Tammy keeps her spirits high by enjoying her "good days" and trying not to think too much about the "bad days".

She is doing "pretty good" despite her mesothelioma and IC bladder disease (caused by her chemotherapy treatments).

Tammy says she is "tired of tests" and all that goes with them. She had a check up last week at Emery and is now waiting on the results. She is presently not undergoing any treatment. She is taking pain medication for the IC disease.

Tammy is surrounded by family and they help her take each day as it comes. She looks forward to the future and hopes there will be new treatments and medical discoveries that can help her and so many others suffering from mesothelioma.

An Update -- 1/25/2011

This past year has been an especially challenging one for Tammy on the medical front. She was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, a chronic gastrointestinal condition, likely related to her IC bladder disease. Tammy is in and out of the doctor’s office a lot but finds it manageable as long as she gets adequate rest in between the marathon blood work sessions and just waiting around for results. For the past five years she has also been undergoing pain management therapy to better cope with her condition. Incredibly, she continues to be cancer free as she embarks on her 11th year as a mesothelioma survivor!

Tammy’s lovely children inspire strength and optimism in her as she accompanies them through their many milestones. Daughter Jackie is getting married in September and she is proud that son George will be joining the Marines this year. She is already bracing herself for the bittersweet reality of having her children be truly out on their own.

Tammy is particularly grateful for the settlements that continue to trickle in from her legal case. This past Christmas, she treated her immediate and extended family to spend time together at a rustic cabin in Tennessee during the holidays. Last year as a high school graduation present for George, she took him, her mother and sister on a vacation to Hawaii. She is thankful that her financial security continues to allow her to help to her children with all her heart. Most importantly, Tammy always remembers to Thank God and my family for helping me get through the ups and downs.

Tammy appreciates having an outlet to keep her family and friends posted about her life through the Worthington Law Firm’s patient profiles. She’s aware that her loved ones check her profile often and anxiously await her updates.

Tammy and her family

Tammy and her family