Family holds event to raise funds to fight mother's cancer
'Beef and Beer' slated for July 7 for Tammy Insinga


Tammy Gresik Insinga with her husband Jake Insinga at their wedding in March 2017, along with Tammy's children, from left, Ryan, Amber and Ashley, with grandsons Brooks and Noah. A Beef & Beer fundraiser is being held on July 7, 2018 at the Andover Borough Fire Department to help cover Tammy's expenses as she undergoes treatment for Stage III colorectal cancer. Photo provided

By Mandy Coriston
Andover — Last December, Andover resident Tammy Gresik Insinga felt like something wasn’t quite right, but despite worsening gastrointestinal symptoms, she didn’t think that a trip to the doctor was warranted. All of that changed on February 28 of this year, when a severe bout of bloody stools sent her to the emergency room. That hospital visit resulted in being referred to a gastroenterologist, where an exam revealed a mass on her colon.
The 51-year-old mother of three and grandmother of two, who has spent the last 25 years working in healthcare as a staffing director at the Andover Subacute and Rehab Center, was immediately sent to an oncologist. After a series of tests, including two biopsies and a colonoscopy, Insinga was definitively diagnosed with Stage III colorectal cancer. The diagnosis came through in March, which is coincidentally Colon Cancer Awareness Month.
What happened next was a flurry of activity designed to get Insinga on a treatment plan as soon as possible.
“After we spoke to the insurance company, I also had to get an ultrasound, MRI, and CT scan of my lungs and other organs, to make sure it hadn’t already spread,” she said, speaking by phone Sunday afternoon, “That can be common with colon cancer.”
Working with the oncologist, a treatment plan was devised. For the last 6 weeks, Insinga has been receiving a low dose of continuous chemotherapy, combined with radiation every weekday. This week, she’ll complete both courses of treatment, and her body will be allowed to rest for 4-6 weeks. The next stage will be surgery later this summer to remove the tumor.
“The chemo and the radiation were meant to shrink the tumor to reduce damage to my colon when they remove it," she explained. "The surgeon won’t know until he removes the mass whether or not I will need a permanent colostomy. If there is enough healthy tissue to save, I may only need a temporary ileostomy while the colon and rectum heal.”
After the surgery, Insinga will need to resume chemotherapy; this time an intense four-and-a-half week course of infused medications. To help cover expenses while she is out of work and continuing treatment, Insinga’s daughter, Amber Callow, has organized a “Beef and Beer” fundraiser, to be held at the Andover Borough Fire Department on July 7. Callow said, “We want to show my mom that the community is behind her. We tried to tell her, but she didn’t believe it until all these tickets started getting sold! We want to raise awareness, too. Just last week, the American Cancer Society put out new guidelines saying people should start getting screened for colon cancer at age 45, not 50, as they previously said.”
Insinga said, “People need to listen to their bodies, and not ignore symptoms for too long. I even knew what my symptoms could be, and I still thought it would go away. If something doesn’t feel right, go get checked.”
Insinga gave credit to her children and grandchildren, as well as her husband Jake, whom she married in March of 2017, for being a strong support system during her initial stages of treatment.
“I’m lucky, I have been feeling okay. I haven’t had too much nausea throughout the chemo. It could have been way worse,” she said, “I have a long road ahead, but I’ve been blessed.”
For more information or to purchase tickets for Tammy’s Beef and Beer Fundraiser, the event can be found online at sites.google.com/view/tammystribe. The cost is $30 per adult, and children under 12 are free. The event will also feature basket raffles and a cooler of cheer. For more information on the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of colon cancers, visit the American Cancer Society’s website at www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer.html.