As the Relay for Life events are taking hold of the U.S., one cancer-survivor’s story mirrors that of many and is a source of inspiration for everyone battling cancer.
Tamara Belsaas for Normal is 49-year old mother, wife and two-times cancer survivor. Life has been harsh and her condition has drove her into another battle that many experience too. The battle with anxiety and depression and readjusting to a newly understanding of normality.
Tamara won the battle with cancer twice. But nearly died at the end of the second experience when an infection drove her back to the hospital bed. The savings of the Belsaas family are gone, but the family is experiencing the joy and fulfillment of having Tamara still there to hold and to love.
Jonathan, Tamara’s husband is proud of his wife and their daughters Rachel and Katie call their mother their own role model.
For this year’s Relay for Life underway in McLean County, Tamara is the honorary survivor. The entire community is supporting her and is fairly proud of Mrs. Belsaas.
In 2012 Tamara noticed blood in her urine on two occasions. She felt fine, so she didn’t pay much attention to the happening. Nonetheless, a bladder biopsy performed at the OSF Medical Group showed that her state was critical. A papillary tumor has installed in the bladder. A rare cancer form that usually affects older men.
In March 2013 the tumor was successfully removed via transurethral resection. Chemotherapy followed and the treatment prescribed included Bacillus Calmette-Guerin which stimulates the immune system to destroy the cancer cells in the body. Three round of BCG and six weeks later, there was reason for celebration.
Until January 2014 when the worst news came along. An increasingly aggressive cancer had installed in her bladder again. This type of cancer is called carcinoma in situ. This time, there were no medical options that could save Tamara’s bladder.
Taking the matter in her own hands, Tamara decided that aggressive cancer requires aggressive measures. So she made her decision. She would fully remove the bladder in a procedure called the Indiana pouch that entails a full hysterectomy, along with the complete removal of lymph and a vaginal reconstruction.
Tamara discussed the matter with her supportive and loving family and moved closer to her sister, in Arizona where the surgery was also performed at Indiana University. Instead of the bladder, a pouch was created from the intestine and colon and connected to the ureters. The end of the surgery meant that the intestine was brought out through the abdomen.
A difficult but courageous decision that now keeps Tamara alive, albeit the difficulty of inserting a catheter every four hours approximately in order to empty the make-do pouch. In order to keep infections from happening, once a day a rigorous cleansing with a saline solution need to be introduced in the pouch.
Once a day, she takes a syringe with 30 milliliters of saline and flushes it into her pouch to reduce the risk of infection.
Tamara Belsaas’ story is incredible. Yet, it is one of the many stories of cancer survivors or of those who lost their lives to cancer.
Relay for Life tries to make these stories heard. And find a way to raise higher sums for cancer research and treatment in the hopes that the future will see less deaths due to any cancer type.
Image Source: pantagraph.com