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2010 Bess Cohn Humanitarian Award: T.J. Garrett, Evans Manufacturing
By Betsy Cummings
May 2010

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When T.J. Garrett swears she’ll beat cancer, she does so like most cancer patients – insisting that she’s going to lick cancer, that it won’t beat her. That attitude is present despite her cancer’s metastization from her liver to her bones. After all, she’s pushed back the cancer many times before. Discovered first in a ganglion cyst on her wrist, Garrett soon learned she had liver cancer that had spread to other parts of her body.

Surgery eliminated the first round of cancerous spots. Later, a trial drug allowed her to "actually beat cancer," she says. Then it reappeared in her liver five months later, where it has "been kind of stuck" ever since, she says.

There’s no lack of insight here, or unrealistic Pollyannaish, bury-your-head-in-the-sand-and-don’t-deal-with-reality behavior going on. Garrett, senior key account manager for Evans Manufacturing (asi/52840), is well aware of the colossal fight ahead of her. But she’s positive enough to hope for the best – and possibly even a cure. Last year, on March 27, doctors told Garrett she had less than a year to live. And yet, her fight goes on today.

When she’s not out of town flying around her eight-state territory in the south and midwest, Garrett is doing her part to raise money for cancer research, scheduling her participation in 60-mile walks that benefit the Susan G. Komen foundation. "It’s an average of 20 miles a day," she says, which would be daunting for anyone, but particularly someone like Garrett, who undergoes weekly chemotherapy treatments that leave her exhausted and in recovery mode each weekend. "About mile 14 you’re thinking, ‘I’ve got six more miles to go – today. I really don’t think I can do it,’ " she says. But she does.

That could be in part because she’s confident she’ll soon be a cancer survivor. "I think if they find a cure for breast cancer they’ll find a cure for all cancers," she says. "They’re so close. I’m just a firm believer that this can happen."

This year Garrett plans on walking once, if not twice, for cancer research. The walks are as much about perseverance as they are fighting cancer. "I want to make sure that people realize that you may be hit with something in your life, but you don’t always have to take it sitting down," she says. "I may have cancer but I’m not going to sit down." – BC

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