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At 29, most of us pause to reflect on the previous decade. We marvel at how much and how quickly life changes, and we look forward to our 30s, a new chapter full of unknowns. For Jamie Milam, at age 29, the unknown and unexpected were revealed: she was diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Healthy, athletic Jamie says, “I never had any abnormal test results, and I go to my doctor annually. I never had any symptoms. The thought never entered my head that I may have cancer.”
Surgery to remove the cancer followed the initial diagnosis, and for 10 months, it looked as though the surgery was successful; however, on September 15, 2015, things took a turn.
“Last year I found out four days prior to the GO RUN that my cancer had returned. I had four different tumors in my pelvic area,” says Jamie.USA Mitchell Cancer Institute’s GO RUN is an annual event intended to raise awareness of and support for GYN cancers as September is Gynecological Cancer Awareness month.
“Being out there (at the run) just gave me a sense of strength and willingness to fight. Crossing the finish line instilled in my head that I would cross the line with my cancer battle however long that may take,” Jamie says.
Jamie soon began treatment, which entailed five rounds of chemotherapy and 31 radiation treatments at MCI.
“It was definitely scary in the beginning with treatment not knowing what to expect at all. I have always been a very determined, driven person, so for me, I took this as a challenge that I was not going to lose,” she says. “I have also been surrounded by such wonderful people. My husband, Rob, has been by my side since day one.”
Jamie, now 31, and her husband, Rob, are residents of Spanish Fort where Jamie serves as the activity director for the Spanish Fort Senior Center, and where Rob is the athletic trainer at Spanish Fort High School. Despite the demands of his job, Jamie says that Rob has found ways to juggle work and to be with her through her treatment and her appointments. “I could not ask for a better person to be with me on this journey,” she says.
The journey has taken Jamie and Rob around the Southeast and as far west as Houston, where in April 2016, she spent six weeks at MD Anderson undergoing radiation and chemotherapy. Jamie and her supporters hoped that her next visit to Houston for a PET scan at the end of August 2016 would declare that she was cancer free. While it was revealed that two tumors were gone, two more had formed.
“I will start chemotherapy again on September 14, 2016,” says Jamie. Her chemotherapy started three days before the MCI GO RUN, which Jamie had planned to run.
“I had already signed up to run, but now that I have my three days of chemo that week, I know that will not be happening,” she says. “I will have part of my cheering squad running it … my husband, my friends, and some of my work family. Since I will be unable to run with them, I hope I can be there, sitting in a chair, being their cheerleader as they come across the finish line.”
For Jamie, as surely with other cancer patients, crossing the finish line at the end of the race symbolizes crossing another important finish line: being declared cancer free.
“I know that I will hear the words ‘cancer free’ however long that may be. I know that day will happen,” she says. “Until then, I hope I am able to make a difference in at least one person’s life going through my experience of going through cancer. I hope that I can one day look back and say with a big smile on my face that I helped someone else through the challenge I had in my life.”
Jamie said that her faith and her supporters will help her get through it. “It is from these hardships and difficult moments that we become stronger, and for Rob and me, we lean on each other and put it all in God’s hands,” she says. “The happiest moments have been ringing the bell after completing radiation and completing the chemo plans. It also makes me happy being greeted by the wonderful people at the Mitchell Cancer Institute. You can be so exhausted and not feeling well, but being greeted by the staff as you walk in the door and having your door opened for you as you are being dropped off at the front…. It’s the small things that go a long way.”
As a result of this chapter in her life, Jamie now encourages all women to see their physician annually. “It doesn’t matter your age, how healthy you are or that you’re too busy to make the appointment. I am proof that it can happen to anyone,” she says. Jamie is hopeful that through the GO RUN event that more awareness is raised, that through the event, people can see how more and more women are affected by these cancers. According to the CDC, each year approximately 71,500 women are diagnosed with gynecologic cancers.
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