Shelby family fought breast cancer together

Little Caden joined the Ross family at just the right time, inspiring his new mom in the fight of her life. He was adopted in June 2012, a few weeks after Tammy Ross found a lump in her breast during a self-exam.

Tammy told Fox 46 she was so focused on finally being a mother at 42 she didn’t tell her husband about the lump. She went to the doctor the week after bringing Caden home; Tammy was diagnosed with an aggressive Stage II breast cancer.

“I couldn’t believe it, I really couldn’t,” Tammy recalled.

The Ross family is no stranger to cancer. Tammy’s father died of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma; her husband Jeff lost his mother to a  rare gastric cancer.

Jeff said Tammy’s diagnosis was devastating.

“We’re the happiest we could ever be, and then to hear the words, “You have cancer,” Jeff said. “I immediately went into caregiver fight mode. What are my options? What stage is it really? What type of medicines are available for this type of cancer.”

“A lot of times I was too weak to even get out of bed and my family would just bring Caden to the bed with me and he would just lay there and hold my finger,” Tammy said. “I told my husband a lot of times I was in so much pain, I wanted to die, but I knew I had to live for Caden.”

Tammy had a lumpectomy, a partial mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation at Levine Cancer Institute. During the year and a half of treatment, Jeff said they nearly went bankrupt.

“I’m not ashamed to say that during the process we literally almost lost everything we owned to make sure my wife was going to be taken care of,” Jeff said. “Because if it was a mortgage payment and a shot that she needed during the chemotherapy, naturally I’m going to pay for the shot.”

It’s a part of their journey Jeff shares openly with others as a spokesperson for Relay for Life since 2006. He travels around the world, encouraging those who are still fighting.

Tammy stills takes a hormone suppressant, but says she was declared cancer-free more than a year ago. She says she wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for her husband and her young son.

“I just thank God for bringing him into my life. Because of him, I believe I’m still here,” Tammy said.

Jeff believes that if Tammy had not found the lump as early as she did during a self-exam she probably would not have survived.