2007-04-26 / Front Page

Tiffani Andrews speaks out about fight against cancer

By CATHY LANNAE

Miracles Do Exist! -  Tiffani, Ashley, and Ashton Andrews. Miracles Do Exist! - Tiffani, Ashley, and Ashton Andrews. (This article focuses on courageous community friends dealing with cancer and is reprinted from the April 12, 2007 edition of The News-Reporter.)

Tiffani Bryant Andrews was on top of the world in February 2003. She had secured a job she loved ... teaching the second grade at Washington Wilkes Primary School. She was busy planning her wedding to Ashley Andrews and was completing a Masters degree in early childhood education at Piedmont College in Athens.

Graduating as salutatorian from Lincoln County High School, Tiffani had worked for several years in the corporate world after receiving her Bachelor of Science in finance from Georgia Southern University. However, she had always felt a desire to teach. In December of 2001, after becoming engaged to Ashley, a hard working young entrepreneur who had established his own tire and auto repair business in Washington, Tiffani had accepted a position as a paraprofessional at WWPS in early 2002. The wedding was scheduled for May 17, 2003, and life was wonderful.

Then things changed abruptly. Tiffani found a lump in her right breast which was surgically removed on February 28, 2003. The biopsy report came on March 5. The diagnosis was breast cancer. Just ten weeks before her wedding!

The tumor was diagnosed as Stage 2, estrogen positive. Family, friends, and the community were shocked and saddened. She was only 25 and had her whole life ahead of her. Cancer. There was no history of cancer in Tiffani's family.

The good news was that the cancer was isolated with no positive lymph node involvement. A treatment protocol was developed. A porta cath was installed because her veins could not withstand the frequency of chemotherapy drugs and and lab work. Thirty-three daily radiation treatments and chemotherapy every two weeks were scheduled beginning in April. The third chemotherapy treatment occurred Monday before the wedding. Her hair fell out just two weeks before the wedding. She went into what was to be the happiest week of her life feeling awful. Anti-nausea drugs kept her going through the week.

Tiffani had bought a wig but held off wearing it until the wedding day as she wanted it to look perfect on her perfect day. Instead she wore turbans and hats as her hair began to thin. During all her treatments Tiffani explained to her second graders that she would be taking some medicine that would cause her hair to fall out. She allowed, with the endorsement of her principal Dr. Rosemary Caddell, the children to wear hats in designated hat areas of the school on what became known as "Hat Day." And she read books to them about people losing their hair. A courageous young woman, she took responsibility for the welfare of her students, her fiancé, her wedding, her treatments, and her future. During her radiation and chemotherapy, Tiffani continued to teach each day, leaving at 2 p.m. for treatments, and continued her travel to Athens for her Masters classes.

The wedding was perfect although she did not feel well. After spending their honeymoon week in Charleston, Tiffani and Ashley returned to Washington to begin their new life. Tiffani was told that her cancer treatment had thrown her body into early menopause. It was the gynecologist's and oncologist's considered opinions that Tiffani would not be able to become preg- nant.

One year later, after treatments were complete and she was deemed cancer free, Tiffani resolved that she might not ever become a mother but she was now a cancer survivor. And she held onto that thought. According to Tiffani, "The fear of cancer is always there. Ashley is my great reinforcer. He always boosts me up if I begin to feel down. But I take each day - one at a time. I look forward; I cannot obsess about cancer.

"When I look at our perfect and healthy son, Ashton Wilkes Andrews, who was born on May 4, 2005, I know that miracles exist and we are blessed in more ways than I could ever have imagined. My 'two moms,' Cathy Bryant and Cherry Andrews; Debbie Bennett who "handled my wedding;" and these incredible, positive communities of Washington-Wilkes and Lincolnton have been essential to my cancer survivorship."

The American Cancer Society's Relay For Life-Lincoln County will be celebrating cancer survivors and memorializing those lost to cancer Friday, May 11, at 7 p.m. until Saturday, May 12, at 7 a.m. at the Curry Colvin Recreation Complex.

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