Screw Cancer Event is June 1, 2024 at Dorner's! Stay tuned for more info
Is the rate of cancer diagnosed for Tehachapi residents increasing, or is social media just making us more aware of this insidious disease?
Whatever the answer, our community is realizing that due to its location, Tehachapi is at a distinct disadvantage. Cancer treatment is at least 90 miles round trip to either Bakersfield or Lancaster/Palmdale.
Tammy and Jim Wallace became aware of this problem when Tammy was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer on October 1, 2012.
Her treatment necessitated traveling to Bakersfield five days a week, for five weeks.
“Right now, there simply are no cancer treatment services any closer,” explained Jim.
“In the beginning, Tammy and I did not fully understand the impact cancer and chemotherapy has on someone’s life. We quickly discovered that there is a real gap in resources, education, financial assistance and other needs.”
This lack of local services became their call to action, and in January 2013, they created Tehachapi Cancer Foundation Inc.
We received our 501(c)3 status on Tammy’s birthday, March 18, 2014. We used our own money to get started and actually got all the paperwork through on the first attempt,” Jim said smiling.
“We believe there is a real need to provide assistance to people in Tehachapi. So through the Foundation we hope to provide gas money, nanny services, house-cleaning services and even food services. We discovered hats and gloves are needed to help off-set the neuropathy that is commonly associated with chemotherapy. These are things that you don’t even think about until you find out from personal experience.”
“Tammy’s cancer was aggressive,” Jim explained. “She had had a colonoscopy just 16 months prior and it was totally clear. Then, out of the blue, she had stage IV colon cancer. Tammy always said that you are the only one that knows your own body and when something isn’t right, you have to follow through – you have to be your own advocate, you have to do your own research, you have to push forward yourself. It was her third doctor that finally correctly diagnosed her. We found out there is no support for colon cancer within our community. The American Cancer Society, in most cases no longer offers fuel reimbursement. So we were pretty much on our own.”
The Foundation plans to set up a support group for all types of cancer, via their website and personal meetings. They already provide some gas cards for those needing to make the trek for radiation and/or chemo treatments.
Chemotherapy-induced Peripheral Neuropathy (CIPN) is a very common side-effect of chemo, Jim added. “Because of that, the hats, scarves and gloves were a real blessing.” CIPN is a close cousin to the neuropathy experienced by diabetics, Jim explained. “It’s just one of the nasty side effects of the chemo.”
One of Tehachapi Cancer Foundation’s goals is to have four fundraisers per year. The first fundraiser is slated for November. “We are working on those plans as we speak and will have more information available shortly,” said Jim. “Right now we are blessed with some private donations so we can keep moving forward.”
Sadly, Tammy Wallace lost her battle with colon cancer on September 1, 2014. However, her legacy of love, compassion and service to others will live on through the Tehachapi Cancer Foundation.