Tamron Little was a 21-year-old college student and pregnant with her first child when she was misdiagnosed with a fibroid tumor. She’d been experiencing abdominal pain, anemia, and constipation, all symptoms that could easily be attributed to her pregnancy. After giving birth to her son, and treatment to shrink what doctors thought was a fibroid, Tamron learned that the tumor had grown. She’d need surgery to remove it and allow pathologists to confirm it was, indeed, a fibroid. That’s when Tamron learned she had Peritoneal Mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer.
“I was given an 18-month prognosis and referred to an oncologist who knew nothing about mesothelioma,” she recalls. As a young, black woman, she didn’t fit the demographics for this type of cancer. “I experienced medical gaslighting,” she said. “I wasn’t taken seriously by my first oncologist. Being a young woman of color, I had to advocate for myself from the start and navigate the uncharted waters of this diagnosis.”
Tamron sought a second opinion. Her new oncologist recommended life-saving treatment, including the then ground-breaking therapeutic technique called Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), where cancerous tumors are surgically removed and heated chemotherapy drugs are injected into the abdominal area to destroy remaining cancer cells.
Reflecting on that turbulent time, Tamron says, “What stands out to me is feeling like I was in the eye of a tornado. The eye is always the calmest and still, but everything outside is a whirlwind.” She remembers her husband stepping into the role of caregiver. “At the time of diagnosis and treatment, my husband was my primary caregiver; he filled the shoes of both parents and took care of me as well as the baby. We didn’t get married until after my surgery, so having cancer didn’t scare him away!”
Motivated by her experience, Tamron embraced the role of an advocate, lending her voice to various platforms. She became a contributing writer for Asbestos.com, sharing her story on panels with the FDA’s Conversations on Cancer, Survivorship Today, and The Cancer Moonshot Forum at the White House. Tamron’s story resonated on a national level, being featured on BET, Essence, Women’s Quarterly Magazine, Elephants and Tea, and CURE magazine. Reflecting on her advocacy work, Tamron emphasizes, “Survivors need to share their stories and make their voices heard. Creating change must start with you!”
Tamron learned about NCCS through her connection with Dr. Crystal Champion, an NCCS Elevate Ambassador. Together, they presented during a survivorship series. Tamron knew the mission and values of NCCS aligned with hers, seeking to improve cancer care through advocacy. Tamron’s advocacy efforts earned her a spot with the 2023 Elevating Survivorship cohort, where she’s receiving the support and training she needs to launch her Elevate project, a community hub in Orange Park, FL dedicated to helping women cancer survivors navigate their survivorship journey. Attending the in-person Elevating Survivorship training proved to be a pivotal experience for Tamron, as she shares, “Coming together and sharing our stories and vision gives you the extra boost needed to keep you going.” NCCS became a cornerstone in Tamron’s journey, offering support and fostering a community of survivors.
For survivors navigating the challenging terrain of diagnosis and treatment, Tamron offers sage advice: “Know that you are your best advocate. Don’t be afraid to speak up about your plan of care. Remember that a bit of hope is all you need to get through your situation; keep pushing, even if you slow down, never stop, and never give up!”
Tamron Little’s journey from a cancer diagnosis to becoming a powerful advocate exemplifies the strength that resides within survivors. There’s so much reason to have hope, she shares, “I love my “Little” family. I have been married to my husband, a cancer survivor and army veteran, for 16 years and counting. We have four children, two boys and two girls, although I was told I wouldn’t be able to have more children after undergoing treatment.” She’s found purpose in the work of advocacy, which has empowered her to contribute to the collective voice of cancer survivors. To those venturing into advocacy and policy work, Tamron encourages, “Don’t be afraid to share your story and experience; remember that you can help others by sharing your unique experience.”
Learn more about NCCS’s Elevating Survivorship (“Elevate”) initiative, a training and mentorship program for patient advocates interested in improving survivorship care in their community. Learn more about Elevate »