We last caught up with Canada-based TV anchor Tamara Taggart almost exactly one year ago, and we were blown away by everything this young wife, mother and professional had under her belt. Between a beautiful family, booming career and magazine-worthy home, she certainly had a lot to be thankful for. This year, Tamara has even more reason to celebrate—she recently reached the end of her three-year cancer medication regimen! She toasted the auspicious occasion with a gorgeous soirée, and is kindly sharing many of the memories with us today.
Styling and planning: Tamara Taggart
Photography: Kyrani Kanavaros at Klik Photographic
Flowers: The Flower Factory
Hair: Courtney Brands
Makeup: Charrisse Mae
Cake: Sweet Bake Shop
Cupcakes: Liberty Bakery
Cotton candy: PetitePuf
Bring us up to speed on what you’ve been up to since last April.
I can’t believe it’s been a year; time flies! This past year has been huge for me. I have grown so much—I feel wiser, stronger and happier. Last November I was able to cross something off my bucket list: I gave a TEDx talk (you can see it here) called “Two Conversations That Changed My Life.” In it, I compare the conversation I had with doctors when they told me my son Beckett has Down syndrome to the conversation I had with doctors when they told me I had cancer. I consider myself an advocate for my son and others with special needs, and giving this talk gave me a lot of confidence—I feel like it really set the tone for me and the positive influence I want to have. The response has been great and has started new conversations and friendships. Since we last spoke, I have enjoyed some wonderful adventures with my kids and husband. We went to Disneyland—a dream come true for my littles! It’s been a good year, for a number of reasons.
You just celebrated the end of a three-year cancer medication regimen—congratulations! Can you tell us a bit about your story as a cancer patient? How has the experience changed you for the better?
In January 0f 2012, I was diagnosed with a rare gastrointestinal stromal tumor, commonly called GIST. Since the tumor was removed during emergency surgery, I have been taking a drug that has revolutionized the care of patients like me. My oncologist told me that if I had been diagnosed with this cancer more than a decade ago—before the advent of drugs known as targeted biologic therapies—I’d be dead.
For the last few months of 2011, before the cancer had been diagnosed, I had its common symptoms: fatigue and anemia. But doctors didn’t discover the source of my problem—even though I was complaining of discomfort and extreme anemia—until the fist-sized tumor in my small intestine ruptured. I nearly bled to death at home in my bed.
January 3, 2012: The day it burst, I had the worst headache of my life. I vomited and passed out in the bathroom at work, on a day I was supposed to be celebrating my first anniversary anchoring “CTV News at Six.” I went home. My husband would later call an ambulance.
The tumor had been growing inside me for about two years. It was a terrifying time—with three little kids at home (Beckett was 4, Zoë was 3 and Poppy was 14 months), I worried that I wouldn’t come home from the hospital.
I’m happy to say that the entire tumor was removed—and after three years, I have finished my chemo drugs. My diagnosis gave me the gift of clarity. The idea of not being here for my children was more than I could ever fathom. My family was and always will be the biggest priority in my life—but after the scare of almost dying, it feels different. Everything feels different. Something beautiful happened, and I can’t quite describe it, except to say that I feel clear and present.
When did you start planning this party? And which vendors helped you bring it to life?
It was my husband who had the idea of throwing a party. I hadn’t had a sip of alcohol in three years, so he thought it would be fun to invite a few people over to celebrate properly. All I wanted was my friends, vodka and a lot of laughing. I’m always game for a party. The first thing I did was call my friend Denise—she’s the ultimate hostess—and after a few text messages, we had a menu planned. We wanted a “signature” drink, and decided to go with a simple lemon syrup infused with rosemary and vodka (yum). My second call was to Gloria at the Flower Factory—flowers can instantly change a room. Tessa at Sweet Bake Shop made the beautiful cake; it was so good that I could’ve eaten the whole thing myself! My girlfriends thought it would be funny to have “intestine” cupcakes. They were delicious—and funny! My good friend Shannon, who runs Liberty Bakery in Vancouver, made the cupcakes. I have been enamored with PetitePuf for a while now, and this seemed like the perfect time to call on Pippa for some cotton candy! Courtney Brands is so sweet—she does my hair every day at work and came by the house to blow out my hair (it really took a beating over these past three years). Charrisse Mae did my makeup, and I’m happy she talked me into a red lip. I tend to always wear pale pink, so it was fun to try something new.
How do you hope to encourage women to be their own health advocates?
As women, we are so good at taking care of others. From a very young age, we nurture our dolls, siblings and animals—and that caretaking continues as we get older. I think women are quite magnificent—but sometimes, we forget to take care of ourselves. My body was telling me that there was something wrong. I knew there was something wrong, but my doctors kept telling me that I was feeling tired because I worked and had three children; that I was anemic because women have a monthly cycle, etc. It was so discouraging. I grew tired of hearing that because I was young and had no family history, there was nothing wrong me. Your gut doesn’t lie—you know yourself best, and if you truly think that there’s something wrong, there probably is. It’s important to be your own advocate—and if you can’t do it, you must find someone that can be an advocate for you. Maybe it’s your husband or partner, a parent or a good friend. I always tell people: Ask questions so that you’re informed, be calm and respectful—it will take you far—and don’t take “no” for an answer. Keep at it until you feel better. When we don’t speak up, we fall through the cracks.
What are your top three hostessing tips?
Good music. Good food. Good friends.
How has your health scare altered your outlook on life? How do you live each day to its fullest?
I was always clear on what is important in life, but after this experience, it has become even clearer. I don’t get upset over small things anymore; it’s a waste of time. I try not to worry about things I can’t control. I live in the moment and enjoy it. I savor every second with my kids, and I’m far more relaxed—yes, we can read another story; yes, you can have some ice cream; yes, we can stay in our PJs all day long. I love my job and I feel incredibly fortunate to do what I do. I also recognize that I have a voice, and I use it to help others and also to bring awareness to and raise money for nonprofit organizations. I want to make a difference. I now look at things like blogging and Instagram differently—I don’t participate to make money, and I don’t count my followers. I do it because I love it; because it’s fun and a great creative experience for me. I have connected with some pretty incredible people on Instagram—my new “Insta-friends.” An ugly diagnosis created a beautiful change for me.
Name your top three resources for party supplies.
The Flower Factory, Etsy and The Cross.
The beautiful florals seemed to be center stage at your party! Can you tell us a bit about the arrangements and how they helped establish the mood?
The flowers are from the Flower Factory. I’m lucky to have the store in my neighborhood—there’s always a bloom in my home. I thought the flowers for this party were incredible. Gloria is familiar with my home, and she knew that I wanted something for the big mirror, cake, dining room and living room. I never tell Gloria what I want—I just tell her where I want the flowers to go! I trust her, and she nails it every time. I find that, with the right flowers, you really don’t need anything else for décor.
What were some of your favorite details of the celebration?
The people were the best part of the party. When you are faced with a stressful, life-altering experience, you see your friends for who they really are. I have great friends—they have been so good to me—and I wanted to have a party to celebrate them. It needed to be like our friendships: easy and fun. I love throwing parties and creating memories. Party photos are important to me, and my friend Kyrani captured moments throughout the night—the food, the laughs and my good friends (and sisters) Saleema and Alisha singing me a song about quitting my meds. It was hilarious; I haven’t laughed that hard in a long, long time. Oh, and I had my first drink in three years (actually, a few drinks), and then had the worst hangover the next day. I haven’t had a drink since the party!!