Family and friends and hosting a fundraiser on Jan. 11 for Gillette native, 62-year-old Tammy Curtis, who is fighting small cell lung cancer.
Tammy Curtis has had one heck of a year.
After losing her brother in a car accident last August, her father-in-law died two days later. As she was prepping to leave for his funeral, she suffered a major heart attack and ended up in a hospital in Billings. As she was being treated for her heart, her doctors noticed a nodule on her upper left lung. A PET scan of the lung revealed she also had small cell lung cancer on her upper left lobe, at which point a vascular surgeon removed the cancerous section.
Small cell lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, accounts for 10 to 15 percent of all lung cancers. Sometimes called oat cell cancer, it’s incredibly aggressive and spreads faster than other cancers but responds well to chemotherapy and radiation.
After 10 days in the hospital in Montana recovering from surgery, Tammy was sent home with a drain tube. Unfortunately, the pain was uncontrollable, and Tammy ended up at Campbell County Memorial Hospital in Gilette.
From here, her daughter Angela Sander researched the best hospitals in the country for Tammy’s particular ailment, settling on the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, given other complications with Tammy’s health, including a stroke years earlier. Tammy and Angela left for Texas in early November for treatment, living temporarily in an apartment an hour from the hospital. After a month, the long daily commute, on top of the strain of being far away from friends and family, took its toll on Tammy’s mental health, so her doctor suggested she finish her final two treatments locally.
However, due to the aggressive nature of the cancer, Tammy will have to return to Texas every three months for the next two years, at which point, those appointments will be staggered to twice a year.
The hospital costs and ensuing treatment has depleted the family’s resources, which has prompted Angela and her daughter, Cortney Bishop, to throw a fundraiser to help Tammy and family pay for the expensive travel costs as well as her co-pays and deductibles, which even with insurance, are costly.
Speaking on the phone from Texas as Angela made preparations to return to Gillette, she spoke of her mother’s tenacity while praising the community for stepping in to help their family.
She’s a fighter, she said of her mother, and has worked hard all her life. The 62-year-old Gillette native had worked for years as a waitress at Flying J’s and other local venues until her health prevented her from working.
“She’s such a good mom,” Angela said, “and she’s been through so much.”
The fundraiser takes place this Saturday, Jan. 11, from 5 to 10 p.m. at the The Eagles Lodge in Gillette. Along with a $10 spaghetti dinner, there will also be a silent auction, 50/50 raffle at $5 a ticket (or 6 for $25), and a gun raffle for both a Henry Golden Boy .22 long rifle and Ruger Blackhawk .45 for $25 a ticket (or 5 for $100).
The outpouring of support already has humbled the family as Tammy’s granddaughter, Cortney, struggled to put into words how much it means to them.
“It’s huge,” she said. “People taking the time out of their lives to donate or help my family means a lot to all of us.”
Already, she said, several local businesses and individuals have stepped in to offer prayers or donate items for the silent auction, including gift cards for hair colorings and massages, a large chess board, several gift baskets with essential oils and other beauty products, as well as gift cards to Humphrey’s Bar & Grill, Pizza Carrello and the Prime Rib among others.
For more information or to order raffle tickets, call Cortney at (307) 660 – 8687. For anyone who cares to donate, an account has been set up for Tammy under the “Tammy Curtis Medical Fund” at First National Bank of Gillette.