Wisconsin State Lead Ambassador
Linda DeGarmo has been involved with ACS CAN since 2007. Linda is retired but is the current clerk/treasurer for the Village of Chaseburg. Linda and her husband Marv owned their own trucking business and also owned a small bar and restaurant in their hometown of Chaseburg. Linda is a council member of her church council and is involved with many other organizations in the area. Linda has also been involved as a volunteer with the American Cancer Society since 1989, she has chaired or co-chaired local Relay for Life events, but her greatest joy is the Soleburner of Chaseburg that has raised more than 1.5 million dollars since 2006. Linda was awarded the American Cancer Society’s St. George Award in 2021.
Why are you a cancer advocate?
I am a cancer advocate because we lost our daughter Tammi Jane to leukemia at the age of 9 in 1978. At the time, we did not have any health insurance, as my husband had just started a new job and was in the probationary period for health insurance. We were accepted into the state health insurance program for low-income people after five months of worrying about how we were going to pay Tammi’s medical bills. There was no pediatric oncologist in LaCrosse at the time, so we had to travel to Minneapolis for treatment which was a 3 ½ hour drive for us. We were young, scared, broke, and didn’t know what the outcome was going to be for us and our small family. Our 3-year-old son stayed home with Marv, while I stayed with Tammi in Minneapolis. It was so hard to be apart. Tammi died nine short months after her diagnosis. During those nine months, we learned what people without insurance go through; the worry, the sleepless nights, and the strain it puts on a family. We also learned that clinical trials are a blessing. Tammi was on experimental medicine for the last three months of her life, and that medicine gave us three amazing, wonderful months that we would not have had with her if that medication had not been available. The worst possible words that a parent can hear is “Your child has cancer.” I advocate so that young families will not have to go through what our family did.
Why is being an ACS CAN volunteer important to you?
I feel that by using my and Tammi’s voice while talking to lawmakers makes a real difference. Sitting in front of them is a mother who is pouring out her heart through her daughter’s story for people she doesn’t know, just so that she can help them. That is what we do, our stories are different, but some how they are the same. Our volunteers are dedicated and amazing – we don’t do this to make a name for ourselves, we do this to make a difference in the lives of cancer patients, their caregivers, and their families. Every win that we have is a great victory!! Our voices, whether separate or together, are making a difference in the lives of people going through a cancer diagnosis.
What is your favorite memory from your time as an ACS CAN volunteer?
I have more than one. I met Dr. Christian Capitini the day that his treatment for pediatric leukemia had been approved by the FDA. This came almost 30 years after we had lost our daughter. His treatment is, and will continue to be, instrumental in the treatment of pediatric cancer patients. I asked him if I could hug him, and he allowed me to do that. It is a day I will always remember. I giggled and cried all the way home that afternoon. It was so amazing—finally a treatment that showed hope. The second memory was when I traveled to Washington DC with the Alliance for Childhood Cancer representing ACS CAN. We went to Washington to work with lawmakers to get the STAR Act passed. It was an important piece of legislation regarding childhood cancer that was, and is, so needed. We had cancer kids and parents meeting with every lawmaker on the hill that day. Before we left Washington, that piece of legislation had enough sponsors to pass through the House and the Senate. It was amazing. Another favorite memory is any time that I get to spend with my ACS CAN family, they are remarkable group of people from all walks of life that come together for the same reason – to rid this world of cancer, and to make the cancer journey easier for people who suffer from this terrible disease.
Want to join me in the fight against cancer? Fill out this form to sign up to be an ACS CAN volunteer in Wisconsin.