Stories of Hope
Survivor Goes From Bald to Glam
Article date: October 22, 2001
Bald and Beautiful, But Alive!
Anniversary Surprise Leads to Diagnosis
On her 10th wedding anniversary, Tammy Davis, 32, was sitting in a hot tub in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., and sipping margaritas with her husband, John. “Ah, the luxury,” she says. “My four-year-old was son safely tucked away at Grandma’s. John and I felt elated to have some time alone.”
After hiking several miles that afternoon, she says they decided to head back to get cleaned up for dinner. Once they’d kicked back in the hot tub, though, they decided to just order in and enjoy their drinks.
After about 10 minutes in the hot water, Davis says she noticed her left armpit starting to throb, and she wondered if she had pulled a muscle during the hike, or if her bra had caused it.
“‘No big deal,’ I thought, ‘I’ll just ignore it,’” she says. “Well, the longer I sat there the worse the pain seemed to get. I couldn’t see any marks on my skin, so I asked my husband, ‘Do you see anything on my chest?’”
“Hon, I don’t see anything,” he told her, “but I feel a lump over here. What is that?”
Davis cuts to the next scene, where she wakes, groggy from the anesthesia after five hours of surgery. She had a 1.7 cm malignant tumor and 34 lymph nodes removed. The surgeon reported to her family, “another successful lumpectomy with all the margins clear.” Then he pulled her husband aside and said, “It’s far from over.”
Davis would need chemotherapy and radiation. “Don’t worry, she’s a fighter and will recover quite well from this surgery with no problem,” her physician told her husband. “I’ll see you in a week to take the drainage tubes out,” he told Davis.
“My journey had just begun,” Davis said.
“Eight weeks out I was beginning to feel normal,” Davis says. But 21 days after starting chemotherapy her shoulder-length hair started coming out by the handful.
“It wasn’t great having hair show up all over the house so John and Steele, our four-year son, shaved the rest of my hair off in the bathtub,” she says. “Now — bald and beautiful, but alive!”
While undergoing treatment after her lumpectomy, Davis wrote a newsletter sent to 5,800 people at the company where she worked to let them know about the importance of early detection of breast cancer and to encourage all women to take responsibility for their own health.
Always one to look for the positive, Davis set out to find the perfect wig. She finally decided on a shoulder length auburn wig that she says was “quite the ‘Ginger’ look!” However, she found it hot and itchy.
“What’s a girl to do? A friend of mine suggested I call the American Cancer Society and check out the slightly used wigs they offer at no charge,” she reports. “Upon arrival I started looking through the wigs. Clean, styled and — gray! Yipes! I was only 32 years old, I could not go gray!”
“Guess what? Wigs don’t take hair color,” says Davis, who transformed a gray one into a blonde one with a couple of bottles of RIT dye. “Cancer really brought out the creativity in me. I now was having fun!”
She attended a Look Good Feel Better Make Up class and left with over $200 worth of free makeup and a complete make over. “I was glamour girl now,” says Davis, who accumulated nine different wigs.
The one person she would like thank the most was Sherry, who Davis says is “a wonderful voice on the end of the line that told me she was from Reach to Recovery. She gave me her time, her story and her faith that I would come through this with attitude. She said that in time, this experience would give me enormous amounts of strength and love I never thought possible.”
Davis, now 39 and cancer-free, is a Making Strides Against Breast Cancer team captain. “Early detection is key to saving lives,” she says. “Won’t you help me spread the word?”