From Cancer Patient to Chaplain – Episode 155

From Cancer Patient to Chaplain

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Featuring: Rev. Tammy James

Published: March 16, 2019

A former cancer patient turned chaplain, Rev. Tammy James talks with the hosts of Health, Hope & Inspiration about how her unexpected cancer journey as not only a patient, but a caregiver, led her to become a chaplain at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. She also shares her perspectives about the roles that faith, spirituality, medicine and science play in an individual’s cancer journey and in the lives of their loved ones.

Show Notes:

When Tammy James was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, it came on the heels of another cancer diagnosis: her husband’s. He was resolute. Her reaction was a bit different. “So the following morning, I received a call from the oncologist who had done a biopsy on me, telling me that I had a rare cancer called myxoid liposarcoma. I had a breakdown. My son was there, and I started hugging him, and he says, ‘Mom, I don’t know why you’re crying. You’ve raised us to trust God.’ He said, ‘If you can’t trust God, then you need to stop going to church and you need to stop tithing.’” It was the wake-up call Tammy needed. Shortly after, they went to Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

And while Tammy’s treatment was successful, opportunity would come knocking in the form of an offer to begin work as a bedside chaplain at the same CTCA facility. Already active in the faith community, along with being caregiver to her husband and mom to her children, she believes the timing was fortuitous. “I think what it has afforded me to do is be very empathetic. I can tell the story because I’ve experienced the story. I can look a patient in the face or a caregiver in the face and say, ‘Hey, I know what you’re going through ’cause I’ve been there. I’ve experienced it all. I’ve had the opportunity to know how it affected my kids and the residual effects of what cancer can do to a marriage, to children, home and relationships.’”


  • “I have found in my journey that I wanted wholeness. You know, I had things that were going on mentally that I hadn’t even recognized were going on. I had some spiritual issues that I hadn’t even recognized. I think cancer was a gift because it let me look at my mortality. Every day when I looked in that mirror, it was like, ‘Okay, I’m here today. I might not be here tomorrow.’”
  • “We’re operating in a place where we get to be hands-on, and I think the thing that I love the most about being a chaplain here is that I can be my true, authentic self.”
  • “When I was growing up, I always wanted to be a Country/Western singer. We used to watch ‘Hee Haw,’ and it was my desire to be a Country/Western singer. I never told anybody that, but you know what? We can be all things to all men. Here at the bedside, guess what? I sing Country/Western music to my patients.”
  • “It’s a blessing for me because all the gifts that are in me, God uses those with the patients.”


CLICK HERE to download this week’s resource: “Practical Needs of Cancer Patients

Learn More:
CTCA | Chicago, IL