We meet so many survivors who can easily recall their lives prior to a diagnosis, but for Metro Police Officer Tina Wiggs, life prior to diagnosis wasn’t quite as clear.

Tina’s story is unique as she was diagnosed with cancer when she was 15 months old. With a hysterectomy at 18 months and chemo to follow, Tina admits her 1st Act of life is a bit fuzzy.

Tina’s mother noticed that her baby daughter had become very agitated and that she had started crying frequently. Doctors told her she was just an over-protective mother. It was her beloved grandmother who noticed something was terribly wrong when she found blood in Tina’s diaper. That got the doctors’ attention and that’s when they found a mass. That’s really where her story begins. It was Rhabdomyosarcoma -– uterine cancer.

tinawiggs“I do remember being poked and prodded. I remember the nonstop doctor appointments,” states Tina. “I remember vomiting after my chemo treatments. I remember being pushed down the hospital hallway in a cage-like crib. I remember people staring.”

Tina is proud to say she was raised by a mother who led by example and showed her how to be a strong woman. “My father was and still is an alcoholic and addict who has spent most his life in prison,” states Tina. “After I was diagnosed with cancer my mom knew that her number one priority was making sure that I stayed alive. My cancer led her to begin her 2nd Act: she kicked my father out of the house and became a single mother of two small girls, one which was fighting for her life. My mother put her children first and her best foot forward in what became a very long journey.”

And so the long journey began.

“I believe life’s events lead you to where you need to go – even if we don’t understand. To be honest, as a young female I didn’t have the self-confidence or self esteem to become a police officer, but as I got older, closer to 30, I decided that I could make a bigger difference if I was in the field instead of behind the protection of four walls. I wanted to be able reach out to people and help them change their lives. I wanted to speak to the youth and let them know that their childhood doesn’t have to dictate who they are as an adult. It only takes a moment to change someone’s life. I want the people I come in contact with to know that behind the badge I’m more than a police officer — I’m human and if I can make the interaction personal then I feel like I can help them. Or sometimes they can help me.”

TIna been an employee of the Nashville, TN government for more than 13 years. She was a trainer for 911 telecommunications and then became a police officer seven years ago.

“The truth is, I don’t know who I was before cancer and I don’t know who I would be today if I hadn’t had cancer. I wonder how many children I would have. I wonder what type of mother I would be .I wonder if I would still be a police officer. My life is about being a cancer survivor. It’s all I’ve ever been and all I’ve ever known.

I don’t have the before and after stories most cancer survivors have. My 1st act will always be a mystery to me. But I have learned to live by the motto, ‘My 2nd act will always be an adventure and but I believe that my tomorrow will be better that my yesterday.’ I do know there is a plan the best is yet to come.“

“Life is what we make it, so make it a great one.”

-Tina Wiggs

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Karen Shayne has received numerous honors for her work with cancer survivors. Most recently in 2014, she and co-founder, Judy Pearson, were recognized in Washington, D.C., by the American Association of Cancer Research and profiled in the AACR’s National Cancer Progress Report. A cancer survivor herself, she is the co-founder of the Women Survivors Alliance, which is the parent organization of NOU magazine and My 2nd Act, Stories from the Stage.