As an avid hiker, Tammy Hinden knew her body’s limits, so when she started coming up short of breath on her regular climbs, she knew something was up. One year out from lymphoma treatment, she’s back out on the trail and climbing without a second thought.

“We’re hiking White Mountains, Mammoth, Yosemite. We’re headed to Colorado near Rocky Mountain National Park. I was able to do a 16-mile hike in September and I didn’t suffer any repercussions, so I feel like I’m back to normal,” Hinden said.

Her journey through cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery all started with a suspicious cough.

“I had this weird cough, and I’d get super out of breath. My friend is a nurse practitioner. She knows me. She knew this wasn’t normal, and she got me going with a chest X-ray,” Hinden said.

That was July 2017, and the X-ray showed fluid under her lungs and suspected cancer. By the end of the week, Hinden was under the care of Dr. Todd Erickson at Mission Hope Cancer Center, and the following week she had her diagnosis.

“I really attribute their quick response to the success of my treatment and recovery. Other doctors might have just said, ‘It’ll go away.’ But she knew me, and this out-of-breath thing didn’t make sense,” Hinden said.

No other member of Hinden’s family had gone through cancer. Her fiancé, Rick Emard, whose previous wife died from cancer, was beside himself with disbelief, but continued to stand by her.

“He would bring me chicken soup because that was all that tasted good. He brought me gifts and words of encouragement, just love and support and encouragement,” Hinden recalled.

That love and support team extended to include her four children -- Dan Hinden of Santa Maria, Matthew Hinden of Grover Beach, Joey Hinden of San Diego, and Christy Villa of San Diego — and her fellow parishioners at First Christian Church, which formed a prayer team for her.

“I had eight friends on a prayer group text, so they were constantly praying and sending words of encouragement,” Hinden recalled warmly.

Then there was Mission Hope.

“They are just a wonderful place. Everyone is so caring and compassionate. It really made my journey so much easier. I had lots of support from them. If I had any questions, they were there to answer them. They made an unpleasant situation very pleasant for me with their upbeat encouragement,” Hinden said.

Local community members who contributed to her care anonymously were also greatly appreciated.

“One day, during treatment, a local Girl Scout Troop brought in puzzles, groceries, things they had gone out and purchased for cancer patients with money they had raised. The gifts came with a little note. That really touched my heart,” Hinden said.

She wrapped up her treatment in December 2017.

“It was the best Christmas present ever,” she said.

But she wasn’t finished with Mission Hope.

During Day of Hope 2018, she and her co-workers in Santa Maria Bonita School District’s business department donated the proceeds from their interoffice lunch fundraisers to the cancer center.

“I felt like God was with me every step of the way,” Hinden said.

Now that she’s on the other side of it, she continues taking part in Mission Hope offerings, including nutrition classes, personal training, rehabilitation exercise classes and the Look Good, Feel Good Program.

“It’s just opened my eyes. There are so many people affected by cancer. You hear all of these stories now. I’m more aware of it now, and I’m all about preventative measures. I obviously don’t want to get this again. I also want to help people understand how to prevent going through it themselves,” Hinden said.

And, more than ever, she embraces her experiences on the trails.

“I appreciate life. I’m thankful every day,” Hinden said.


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