Mesothelioma Survivor Named NCCS Elevate AmbassadorAdvocacy
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How to Cite Asbestos.com’s Article
Marchese, S. (2023, September 26). Mesothelioma Survivor Named NCCS Elevate Ambassador. Asbestos.com. Retrieved March 3, 2024, from https://www.asbestos.com/blog/2023/08/08/mesothelioma-survivor-nccs-ambassador/
Marchese, Sean. "Mesothelioma Survivor Named NCCS Elevate Ambassador." Asbestos.com, 26 Sep 2023, https://www.asbestos.com/blog/2023/08/08/mesothelioma-survivor-nccs-ambassador/.
Marchese, Sean. "Mesothelioma Survivor Named NCCS Elevate Ambassador." Asbestos.com. Last modified September 26, 2023. https://www.asbestos.com/blog/2023/08/08/mesothelioma-survivor-nccs-ambassador/.
Tamron Little was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma at the age of 21, just after delivering her first child. Sixteen years later, after surviving this rare cancer, she has an opportunity to advocate for quality care for others living with a cancer diagnosis.
Little has been named a 2023-2024 Elevate Ambassador for the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. She and nine others were selected this year to help address health inequities that were brought to light through the NCCS’s State of Cancer Survivorship Survey.
Little told Asbestos.com that this recent honor means a lot to her. She said it should help others across the country and the globe who are having a hard time dealing with the mental health effects of cancer that linger even after the disease is gone.
“It is a step in the right direction, letting me and others know how far patient advocacy can go,” Little said. “You’re not just your diagnosis, you’re not just a cancer survivor, but you can take your experiences and your story and create something that will help many survivors.”
Doctors noticed a growth in Little’s abdomen during a routine ultrasound while she was pregnant with her son Caleb. In 2007 she was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Little believes her disease may have been caused by secondhand exposure to asbestos.
She underwent successful cytoreductive surgery, hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy and intensity modulated radiation therapy just months after giving birth. Today Little is fully recovered. She’s a mom of four, an ordained minister and a contributing writer for Asbestos.com.
In early 2023, a member of the NCCS found Little on LinkedIn and decided she would make a great Elevate Ambassador candidate after hearing her survival story. Little’s story had also been published on the NCCS website several years ago.
During the application process, Little shared her plan to create a cancer survivorship community for people worldwide. In July, she was officially named an ambassador.
“One common denominator with most of the cancer survivors is that after they finish treatment, they still feel alone. And they feel alone because once you ring that bell, once you’re in remission, it’s like OK, we’re expected to return to normal,” Little explained. “But what no one tells us is that our life will never be the normal that it was before.”
After her recovery from mesothelioma, Little said she struggled in spite of coming out of her ordeal with a clean bill of health. She wants to address the many issues people have to deal with – problems only cancer survivors can understand. Struggles such as:
- Mental health issues
- Work issues
“You get so used to going to the doctor every day or just about every day. You made friends with the lab tech, you made friends with the radiology tech, you made friends with the secretary at the doctor’s office and then all of that has dropped to probably twice a year,” Little said.
“You are having to go back into a world that looks different than it did,” she added. “You are having to live with your scars, live with the ailments that the treatment caused, live with the symptoms. And there is no manual telling you what to expect.”
Specific Resources for Cancer Survivors
When Little was diagnosed with mesothelioma she was just starting her career. She understands that returning to work after being out for a while can be a major hurdle for anyone in the same situation. She wasn’t sure if even telling her co-workers was the right thing to do over fears of possible discrimination.
“Believe it or not, people discriminate against you when you say you had cancer and then they think all of these bad things,” Little said.
Little said she would like to create a cancer “survivorship hub,” as she describes it, “where survivors can go to and find their tribe and get resources either online or somewhere local.”
Access to mental health resources is another main focus for Little. She told Asbestos.com that mental health wasn’t a part of her treatment plan following her recovery. She wants to make that a priority for other cancer survivors. She said a cancer diagnosis is linked to mental health issues, which can be long lasting.
Plans Include a Survivorship Hub
Little’s plan to create an online cancer survivorship hub is underway now that she has been selected as an Elevate Ambassador for the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. She plans to create an online community that will also have a presence on all social media platforms. While she envisions a local initiative, it has the potential for a global reach.
“It is pretty much going to be within fingertip reach for people across the globe, for people in Europe and things like that. That’s what I really wanted to do is to stretch worldwide,” she said.
Her plan is to have a number of resources available for fellow survivors so they can easily find counselors in their part of the world. The hub will also focus on specific resources that Little felt were missing from her cancer journey. She wants to ensure that the resources are easy to find for people who may be too shy or embarrassed to join a support group.
“They can discuss various topics about the survivorship journey, opening that door for survivors to really ask questions and to really talk about things that they may have been afraid to discuss with other people,” Little explained.
Some survivors feel family members can’t relate to what they are going through because they’ve never had cancer, Little said.
“They’re just saying, you don’t have cancer anymore, everything is OK, and it’s not because even though you’re in remission and cancer-free you still have that ongoing battle within your mind,” she said. “Even for me, 16 years later, it’s still a mental battle weekly.”
Little said the online community would include some face-to-face meetings between survivors in certain cities. The timeline for when this online community will be up and running hasn’t yet been set, but Little is hoping it will be soon.