You wouldn’t normally think a breast cancer diagnosis would lead to The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
But for Tammy Myers, the signs pointing to this moment have long been in place. And not just because DeGeneres is the one person who could make her laugh during chemotherapy.
Sitting in the audience at the show in Burbank, California, on Tuesday capped off a year of battling through surgery and treatment.
“I can’t think of a better way to start 2016,” she said.
The show airs at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 17, on WOOD-TV.
Myers, a 34-year-old photographer, chronicles her breast cancer journey in a blog filled with intimate and poignant photos.
A patient at Spectrum Health Cancer Center, Myers made the decision to share her story the day she was diagnosed. Her ultimate goal is to create a book that she could give to her 3-year-old daughter, Corryn, when she is older, filled with photos and loving messages.
But she also wants to help other woman—and especially raise awareness about breast cancer risks among young women.
And in that effort, she had two role models to inspire her.
Her beloved aunt, Pam Yurgens, a caring and compassionate woman, died of breast cancer at age 37. Myers, who was 15 then, was extremely close to her aunt.
“When she died, I made a promise to myself that if she couldn’t be here to do all the good she was doing, I would do it for her,” she said.
She also wanted to honor a close friend, Vicki Freer, who fought breast cancer five years ago. Freer is now a strong source of support for Myers.
“I had always said I wanted to do something for the breast cancer cause,” Myers said.
After she learned she faced an aggressive form of cancer, she told herself: “OK, we are going to take a picture today and write about this as it happens.”
She was diagnosed Feb. 16, 2015. In the year since then, she underwent a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. She began reconstruction surgery. And she had surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes.
It was a painful year, physically and emotionally. There were dark days when she did not watch television or listen to the radio because she did not want to hear any mention of cancer.
“The only show I would watch was ‘Ellen,” she said.
DeGeneres could make her laugh. And even if there was a mention of cancer on her show, somehow Myers was able to handle it.
“I have always loved Ellen—even before she started the talk show,” she said.
When 2016 began, Myers decided to focus her efforts on a fun goal. She requested tickets to be in the audience of DeGeneres’ show. Freer also is a fan, so she requested tickets for both.
A few weeks ago, she learned they had four seats to a show at Warner Bros. Studios. The date of the show was Feb. 16—the one-year anniversary of her diagnosis.
Myers had that “meant-to-be” feeling, and it only became stronger when she got a text from her cousin—Yurgens’ daughter. She said Yurgens also was a big fan of DeGeneres. She often watched the sitcom “Ellen” when it aired in the 1990s.
“As soon as she told me that, I remembered sitting at her house watching it,” Myers said. “I wonder if that’s where my love of Ellen started.”
Attending the show was a fun day for Myers. She shared the day with her husband, Jordan, her sister, Misty Mills, and Freer.
She met others who tried for a long time to land tickets. She heard of one woman who has tried years without success.
“So the whole thing seems so very surreal, and so very meant to be,” she said.
Reaching out to others
She is passionate about making women aware of breast cancer risks. Until the day she felt a lump in her breast, breast cancer “was not something that was ever on my radar,” in terms of her personal health risks.
She has no family history for the disease—Yurgens is not a blood relative. She does not smoke or drink alcohol, and she stays active.
She has been overwhelmed by the response to her story. Women have thanked her for putting words to thoughts and feelings they could not express. Some say it has helped them as they go through stages of treatment.
Myers believes she has found a mission in her experience. She is able to use her photography and marketing background to help others.
“Nothing has ever come so easy to me or felt so right,” she said.
But it is still hard to believe sometimes.
“I was pretty much the shyest person ever,” she said. “This has been quite a transformation.”