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Surviving Stage 3 Melanoma – a Journey of Cancer and Faith

Tamra’s cancer is now in remission and her trips to Mayo are spaced out to every three months—as long as she continues to do well.

Tamra Schmitt is a woman deeply committed to her faith and so, from the first moment she learned she had Stage 3 Melanoma, she has worried less about how cancer will personally impact her and focused more on how she could use this experience to uplift others on a similar journey.

Tamra Schmitt headshot

“God has been so good to me so my feeling is, this has to be bigger than me,” Tamra says. 

Even with an initial prognosis of 6 to 9 months, undiagnosed and untreated, Tamra had hope.

Tamra was first diagnosed with melanoma in May 1996. At the time, the skin cancer mark, the size of a pencil eraser, was on her right calf. Surgery got it all out and Tamra was cured for 25 years. Then, in 2021, she developed a urinary tract infection and that led to a biopsy and a new and challenging discovery – her skin cancer from long ago had metastasized into her lymph nodes. Her oncologist mentioned a clinical research trial right away and she agreed to participate—not only because it could help her but because she liked the idea of contributing to science that could help others.

Taking part hasn’t been easy. She had to commit to 3.5 years of participation—through March 2025—and all treatment has to be done at Mayo—which is a four hour round trip from her home in Iowa. She initially traveled there every three weeks for multiple back-to-back chemotherapy treatments, medical appointments, and laboratory tests. Then she had surgery to remove 16 lymph nodes, which included the tumor. That was followed by several more weeks of chemotherapy, medical appointments, and laboratory tests. Family and friends drove her to Mayo and early on she was told that the Lazarex Cancer Foundation could help to offset the financial stress with reimbursement for travel costs.

All of the help, in Tamra’s eyes—is proof of God’s love and answered prayers. “I don’t have the energy and strength to drive myself when I’m getting treatment so I’m really grateful to my family and friends and as for the cost of it all—it would be too much to do on my own. There wouldn’t be any way,” she says.

Tamra’s cancer is now in remission and her trips to Mayo are spaced out to every three months—as long as she continues to do well. Lazarex continues to support her with travel reimbursements that she remains grateful for. Fewer trips does leave her more time for a passion project that has grown out of her diagnosis – inspiration, faith-based bookmarks that she creates and distributes through her Whispers from Heaven Ministries to inspire other cancer patients and those also going through challenging times to stay strong through their journeys.

The bookmarks, titled The ABCs Through a Cancer Journey and The ABCs Through Life’s Journey include encouragement like…

A – Advocate for yourself. You are worth it.

B – Be bold, be brave. You are beautiful.

C – Cancer does not have the last word. (Cancer bookmark); C – Challenges grow character. Rise up to be a better you (Life’s Journey bookmark).

D – Don’t downplay your journey; you matter.

Inspirational bookmarks

“This cancer journey isn’t stagnant. You have to keep moving through it and hold onto hope while you do,” she explains. “I pray these bookmarks give hope and encouragement to people. If they do, it will bring something good out of this experience for me. I’m a miracle. So is every other cancer patient. There are blessings in the midst of the mess, and I am honored and grateful to highlight them.”

Tamra has distributed hundreds of bookmarks, since they were first published in late July 2023. Through her ministry she speaks words of hope, writes words of hope, and distributes bookmarks to give hope. She has no plans to stop anytime soon and says she’s just as committed to finishing the cancer trial too—thanks to Lazarex’s help that makes the burden easier to bear.

“This clinical research study is something I plan to complete,” she explains, “not just for myself but for all those who have walked beside me and all those in a cancer battle.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, new cancer cases in the U.S. are projected to cross the two-million mark in 2024.

As contributions come into Whispers from Heaven Ministries, more bookmarks are published for distribution. If you are interested in learning more or requesting a bookmark, you can reach Whispers from Heaven Ministries on: