Relay’s different for Stewarts this year

Published 11:59 pm Monday, April 21, 2014

Michael and Tammy Stewart recently returned home from M.D. Anderson.

Michael and Tammy Stewart recently returned home from M.D. Anderson.




First in a seriews

Last week, Andalusia residents Michael and Tammy Stewart stepped off an airplane to a hero’s welcome at South Alabama Regional Airport. While Michael Stewart is quick to tell you his recent achievements in battle are the work of God, he too has become a beacon of hope as Covington County counts down to this year’s Relay for Life Friday. Relay for Life is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

Tammy Stewart said her husband’s battle with cancer began just a few short months ago when he received some startling news.

“He was just having some stomach issues, and the doctor told him he had gallstones,” Tammy said. “When they actually got in, they realized what it was.”

And what it was, Michael said, was a rare form of cancer on his appendix.

“They said I had a better chance of getting breast cancer than this,” he said. “They call it appendix cancer, but it actually is something that burst and just spread all through my abdomen.”

The Stewarts said they were immediately referred to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston by their doctor at UAB, and subsequently spent 51 nights away from home.

“He had a 20-hour surgery,” Tammy said. “Then we were moved off site, but they had to go back in after he developed an infection.”

Michael also underwent a special type of chemotherapy that was not available to him at UAB, before making his trek back home last week.

Now, Michael says he plays the waiting game as he looks toward his next check up next month, and another screening in three. In the meantime, he said he is looking forward to helping as much as possible with events like Friday’s.

“You know, we were always supporters of Relay for Life, but we were never real involved,” he said. “Something like this brings it home for you and makes you see what you should focus on.”

And the Stewarts said those battling cancer back home in Alabama were constantly in their prayers, and in some cases in their physical vicinity, while in Houston.

“Bailey Byrd (another Covington County resident) was there,” Michael said. “We were actually in recovery together.”

Michael said he is also thankful to his family, his faith and his friends at PowerSouth, where he works as an engineer, as well as his church family at Southside Baptist Church, and hopes he can extend a hand to those without such a great support group.

“There are people that don’t have family around and are battling this alone,” Stewart said, adding that this week’s Relay for Life event is a wonderful way for everyone to reach out to those touched by cancer.

“I’m just thankful to God. I know that whatever happens, He won’t leave us hanging,” he said. “But family and friends have been so great and Relay does a lot more than I ever realized they do.”

This year’s Relay for Life event will kick off Friday at 6 p.m. at the Covington County Kiwanis center.