Tiffany Madison-Fogg, who has stage three breast cancer, is recording advice for her children to listen to after her death
A military couple's plans for a dream life post-deployment were interrupted by an unfortunate diagnosis.
After years of being separated through multiple deployments, Tiffany Madison-Fogg and her husband Matt were months away from finally being able to spend their lives together. Matt was in Germany on his final deployment as an army pilot, and Tiffany was eight months pregnant with their third child when doctors gave her tragic news: she had stage three breast cancer.
“If I did nothing, I had six months to live. They said it was a very aggressive cancer. That’s a very short timeline when you have two children at home and your husband is in Europe," she tells PEOPLE. "I had no known family history, but I said, I am going to beat this.”
After hearing the news, Matt, who served five combat tours in Kuwait and Afghanistan, was desperate to get home to his wife and family in Austin, Texas.
“It was very surreal and very devastating," he says. "The worst part is when you’re there and you can’t do anything initially, and you have to wait for [the] command to release you so you can go home."
Doctors told Tiffany she could get a special type of treatment that wouldn’t cross the placenta and would be safe for her unborn child. The 42-year-old had two rounds of chemo before giving birth to Madeline in April 2022 and then started back on chemo as soon as she recovered from her C-section. She also underwent 33 rounds of radiation and a mastectomy, only to have the cancer come back in August last year as stage four.
“It’s so hard emotionally having Madeline, my youngest, and imagining that she would grow up without me and not know me is really devastating,” Tiffany explains. As a result, she began thinking about what she would want her to know.
“I started a book of advice for my children — what lessons would I want to teach the — that was therapeutic," she notes, but it didn't stop there.
Tiffany took it one step further after a counselor told her that kids typically want to hear their mom's voice after her death.
“I started making videos of different lessons I’ve learned and want to share with them. I made a list of all the things I would want to tell them about things like dating and showing up as yourself in the world, about being kind to yourself," she says.
"Everything from practical to emotional advice — even our Christmas traditions and how to handle their first breakup," Tiffany shares.
However, Matt struggles with the idea of the videos and what it means for their future. Tiffany had planned to keep working as a business consultant so that Matt, now retired from the army, could be a stay-at-home dad.
“It’s difficult. I don’t know how to explain it," he explains. "A lot of times I couldn’t be in the room when she was recording the videos. I had to go elsewhere. It’s just difficult to think about. There’s a lot of stuff I had to work through and talk about — things I hope no one has to think about at our age. We would go into MD Anderson [Cancer Center] for her treatment, and everyone would look at us because we were the youngest people in the room. There we were in the middle of our lives.”
Tiffany, who jokes that she was a hotshot business consultant before the diagnosis, says that as a proud Texan, she has an amazing family and she couldn’t bear the thought of leaving them.
Friends have started an online fundraiser to help the family via Givebutter, which has already raised over $55,000 of its $150,000 goal.
Meanwhile, she's exploring alternative treatments and hoping to beat the odds.
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“I have to. I’m an eighth-generation Texan, and I come from a long line of fierce, gritty women and I want to be an example to myself and my children and to my family on how to persevere. I’m going to beat this — I have to think that.”
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