Get the latest delivered to your inbox
Privacy Policy

Now Reading

Finding My Light in the Darkness of Cancer

Finding My Light in the Darkness of Cancer

Published 01-29-24

Submitted by Aflac Incorporated

Tamara Jakes shown with her daughter.

Originally published on Aflac Newsroom

By Tamara Jakes, director, Aflac Employee Experience and cancer survivor

In 2003, life was pretty crazy for me. Most of my days were spent trying to keep up with my then 3-year-old, which didn’t leave much time for anything else. When it came time for my annual wellness check, I honestly didn’t overthink it until my test results returned a couple of days later — abnormal.

For those of you who have heard the words “you have cancer” or been there with a loved one who has heard them, my heart goes out to you. Because I know. I know the fear, confusion, anger and, of course, uncertainty. After additional testing, my doctor confirmed it was cervical cancer. I was only 29 years old, but I was saved by a routine wellness visit that I recommend for everyone. In fact, some cancer insurance policies like the one offered at the company I work for, Aflac, pay a benefit for wellness exams.

My medical team removed the cancer, and we were blessed with how well it worked — no additional treatment was required. However, it came with other burdens like a struggle with infertility. After several years of not being able to conceive and multiple miscarriages, I was even more angry at cancer than I had been when I first got my diagnosis. Then, after 11 years, my husband and I were finally blessed with our daughter Joy, named for the joy she brought into our lives.

With all of the ups and downs, you never really learn how to exhale after a cancer diagnosis. Regular checkups always filled me with dread, but after so many years of normal results, I had started to calm a little.

Just as I started to feel like my life was back on track and I was living “worry free,” the rug was ripped from under me again. At my routine annual exam, my physician noticed a lump on my neck — thyroid cancer. I was devastated. Why now? Why again?

I made a promise to myself: I wasn’t going to let cancer win. I wasn’t going to let it interrupt my life and everything I wanted to achieve. I beat it once and I would beat it again.

My surgery took place in February 2022, and I kept the first promise I made to myself: The following month, I graduated with my master’s degree. The treatment process followed and, by the end of May, I fulfilled the second promise: I didn’t let cancer win!

My cancer journey was filled with curve balls, twists and turns. But I had two lights in that time of darkness: emotional support from my family — both at home and at work — and financial support from my supplemental insurance policies and organizations like The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).

My advice to anyone who will listen is to:

  1. Be proactive. Go to your regular checkups, stay close to your health care providers, and pay careful attention to your well-being. Studies show that an early diagnosis helps improve chances for survival and, like in my case, some insurance policies will even pay you for those wellness checks.
  2. Get involved. Find organizations, like LLS, or the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, that are actively working toward better treatment options for those with cancer. Whether you give time, talent or money, your contribution makes a big difference to those in need.
  3. Protect yourself. When you receive a cancer diagnosis, every bit of your energy needs to be focused on fighting the disease, not finances. Talk to your employer to learn more about benefits available to you, and research savings plans and insurance policies that can help protect you against the financial impact of serious illnesses like cancer.

Lastly, a piece of advice for anyone regardless of the role you play — whether it’s as a patient, caregiver, loved one, etc. — you have an opportunity to be someone’s light in what will likely be one of the darkest times of their life. Take it.

This article contains the opinions of an Aflac policyholder and is not intended to portray any specific benefits or details of Aflac cancer insurance (also known as specified-disease insurance in some states) policies. Coverage may not be available in all states and benefits may vary based on plan options. Limitations and exclusions may apply. In Delaware, Policies B70100DE, B70200DE & B70300DE. In Idaho, Policies B70100ID, B70200ID, B70300ID, B7010EPID, B7020EPID. In Oklahoma, Policies B70100OK; B70200OK; B70300OK; B7010EPOK; B7020EPOK. In Virginia, Policies A75100VA–A75300VA. For more information about Aflac insurance policies, contact your Aflac agent or visit Aflac supplemental coverage is underwritten by American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus. In New York, Aflac supplemental coverage is underwritten by American Family Life Assurance Company of New York. Aflac WWHQ | 1932 Wynnton Road | Columbus, GA 31999


Aflac Incorporated logo

Aflac Incorporated

Aflac Incorporated

Aflac is a Fortune 500 company, providing financial protection to more than 50 million people worldwide. When a policyholder or insured gets sick or hurt, Aflac pays cash benefits fairly, promptly and directly to the insured. For more than six decades, Aflac voluntary insurance policies have given policyholders the opportunity to focus on recovery, not financial stress.

More from Aflac Incorporated

Join today and get the latest delivered to your inbox