Mom of two on surviving years of cancer: 'you live every day like it's your last'

Tatum survived years of Hodgkin's Lymphoma (Source: KTRE Staff)
Tatum survived years of Hodgkin's Lymphoma (Source: KTRE Staff)

HEMPHILL, TX (KTRE) - For years, the idea of life without her kids plagued one Hemphill mother, who thought every day might be her last.

“I was pregnant with my daughter and probably about the fifth month, I started having problems sleeping. Like, my heart was racing,” said Rebecca Tatum.

Her heart was racing uncontrollably, Tatum said, to the point that she thought she was having a heart attack.

“I literally felt like my heart was going to explode. It was beating so fast and uncontrollably,” said Tatum. “I don't know why for me when I was pregnant, when I was lying down, it did that. But after I had my daughter, it was like anytime I did anything, my night sweats were insane.”

Scared for her life, Tatum sought medical help and was told it was nothing but anxiety. Until, she began to feel even worse.

“I was giving [my daughter] a bath and my heart was just literally racing. I took my daughter in there to my husband and son and said, ‘you're going to have to watch her. I'm going to the hospital. If I don't, I'm going to die,'” said Tatum. “I knew I was. I knew something was wrong. So, when I got to the doctor's my pulse was 155 and he said, ‘yeah. Something's wrong. My nurse is going to drive you over to the hospital.”

Tatum was only 22 years old at the time, and said when the doctor came in she knew something was wrong.

“The doctor walked into the room and was like I have some good news and some bad news, and he said the bad news is you probably have cancer,” said Tatum.

She was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, which affects the immune system. But that wasn't all.

“My largest tumor was 19 centimeters, which in the tumor world is gynormous. They're normally two-to-five centimeters and that was on the pericardium sack on my heart,” said Tatum. “So, that's why I couldn't breathe and why I thought I was having a heart attack anytime I laid down or did anything.”

Tatum later traveled to M.D. Anderson in Houston where she began chemotherapy and radiation treatment, but said it was “nerve-racking,” to think about her children.

“Once you carry the gene, you always worry about your kids getting it. So, of course, I'm worried about it,” said Tatum.

However, she said living cancer free has put life in perspective.

“It's also one of those things that makes you live every day like it's your last and never take anything for granted,” said Tatum.

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