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Courage award

  • RON GOWER/TIMES NEWS Jamie Lynn Tatusko, 25, left, of Nesquehoning, sits on her front porch with her sister, Laura Ann, and parents, Gertrude and Mike Tatusko. Jamie will be honored by the Tamaqua-Carbon Unit of the American Cancer Society with a…
    RON GOWER/TIMES NEWS Jamie Lynn Tatusko, 25, left, of Nesquehoning, sits on her front porch with her sister, Laura Ann, and parents, Gertrude and Mike Tatusko. Jamie will be honored by the Tamaqua-Carbon Unit of the American Cancer Society with a Courage Award during its annual telethon this weekend.
Published April 06. 2010 05:00PM

At 25, Jamie Lynn Tatusko has so much going for her.

She has ambition (she recently bought her first house). She has a career. She's pretty, she's athletic, and she is an optimist.

There's one big negative right now in her life: She is battling cancer.

Tatusko, of 41 W. High St., Nesquehoning, has second stage Hodgkin's lymphoma, the formation of tumors in her lymph nodes.

She insists, though, "It's not so bad; I'm OK with it. It isn't so horrible."

Family members say one of Jamie's main qualities is the positive attitude that she has maintained ever since her diagnosis.

Jamie, a 2003 graduate of Panther Valley High School and 2007 graduate of College Misericordia, is the daughter of Mike and Ginny Tatusko of Nesquehoning. Her grandparents are Mickey and Gertrude Tatusko of Lansford and the late Vernon and Florence Corby.

She has a sister, Laura Ann, at home.

She is a math teacher at Weatherly Area High School and the throwing coach for Jim Thorpe Area High School's track team.

Jamie has always taken care of herself, making it hard to comprehend that she could be stricken with such an illness.

In high school, she was active in sports, playing basketball and track. She was a throwing competitor in track in both high school and college. In high school, she did especially well in the shot put, finishing second in District XI competition and then advancing to states.

Last year was, for the most part, incredible for her and her sister. They vacationed in both Hawaii and Disney World.

Then came the Hodgkins diagnosis.

She said she always had a small lump in her neck. She kept an eye on it, but one day she came home and felt an extreme amount of pressure in her chest.

Her family members convinced her to visit a doctor and more lumps were detected. A biopsy followed and on Dec. 3, she was diagnosed with Hodgkins - exactly one month to the day after she bought a house.

There is no history of cancer in Jamie's immediate family.

The good news is that she was told the survival rate is 90 percent.

"That's great compared to the prognosis 40 years ago of not being so good," said her mom, alluding to advancements being made in cancer research and treatment.

Jamie is one of three people who will be honored by the Tamaqua-Carbon Unit of the American Cancer Society this weekend with a Courage Award. The award will be presented during the annual telethon of the ACS, which will be televised Saturday and Sunday on Blue Ridge Communications TV-13, from noon to midnight both days.

The award presentations are scheduled for Sunday night between 7:15 and 8 o'clock.

Jamie said she told her students about her cancer.

"They're really good with it," she said. She's forced to take a half day off every other Wednesday for her treatments.

"My seniors got me the daffodils, a scarf, and a teacher's box," she said. The daffodils are sold each spring by the ACS for cancer awareness. A teacher's box is a container with the word "teacher" on it and contains various items.

Over the Christmas season, her fellow teachers gave her a "big care package" that contained such things as towels, socks, and a housecoat.

Her family, too, has been there for her.

"My sister has been very, very good," she said.

She added that two of her cousins, Tom Zlock, a high school senior, and John Kuba, a college sophomore, shaved their heads so Jamie wouldn't be alone with hair loss.

She also praised her boyfriend, Russell White, who she's been seeing for the past 1 1/2 years, with being in her corner throughout the ordeal.

"I have a wonderful boyfriend," she said. "He's been really good through all this."

Jamie said she personally feels that it's important she keeps a good attitude.

"Just having the positive attitude that it will get better helps me get through it," she said. "There's people out there much worse than I am."

That attitude is evident by the busy schedule she keeps. The house she bought needs a lot of work and she and her father have been working diligently on getting it ready for her occupancy.

She admits she gets tired sometimes, but it doesn't stop her from track meets and practices.

"Doing things keeps my mind off this thing," she said, referring to her revolting cells. "I get worn down, but I feel much better-off physically than when I'm not doing anything."

"I think she's a tough cookie," interjected her younger sister.

Laura confessed that she and her sister used to fight a lot like sisters do.

"After she went away to college, though, we got very close."

Ginny said that Laura was in college and away at school when Jamie was diagnosed, which was tough for both sisters. Of Laura, Ginny said, "I told her a lot, but I tried not to tell her too much."

Jamie said the most devastating part of the illness was losing her hair. She had well-managed, long, brown hair.

The treatment regiment consists of four cycles (eight treatments), then 20 treatments of radiation. She had a port placed in her chest.

She said she is being treated by Dr. Surendra Shah of Palmerton, "who has a staff that's awesome." Ginny said that just to be certain, Jamie went to Hershey Medical Center for a second opinion of her cancer and treatment and the staff there praised the care that Dr. Shah is providing.

"I'm looking forward to being done with the treatments," Jamie admits. "In three weeks, I will be done with the chemo if the PET scan is good. Then a few weeks' break, then the radiation. I'll probably be done (with all the treatments) by the end of June."

"And I'm looking forward to the summer," she exclaimed.

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