OKEECHOBEE — I am still amazed at how Okeechobee has grown, because I had the pleasure of meeting a community member who has been here nearly 15 years and yet we had never crossed paths. Meeting him though was at the request of the Bragels who own Brown Cow Sweetery. Typically, I like to tell the story and just let the person be surprised with the Sunday paper, but this week’s inspiration, Tracy “Taz” Faye, was one I just had to go “get the dirt on!”
In April 2015, Taz was told to go home and live what was to be the last six months of his life. Taz refused to accept that as his fate, and is here today because he has the most positive attitude about his situation. He notes that now instead of planning weeks, months or even years ahead, he has a two-day limit. The one thing he does make sure to do is enjoy every moment with family and friends, both in Okeechobee and on the coast.
Taz moved to Okeechobee, following his children who were here with his ex-wife in Okeechobee. He had lived in Port St. Lucie and said that commuting to Okeechobee was tiresome and he wished to be near his sons, who were young at the time. A plumber by trade, he switched occupations while here in Okeechobee, driving for a salvage yard and later detailing cars.
At this point though he is unable to work. Somehow he manages to keep moving forward he says, “I pray every morning, every evening, and I even pray at the red lights.” Taz credits the support of his children, Travis, 22 and Troy, 18, as well as his long-time fiancé Jolene, for also helping him face cancer.
Taz is thankful to the medical community that has surrounded him from the start, with Dr. Armando Santelices giving him the dreaded news. Taz, like most men, saw the signs, ignored the symptoms and it was not until things got to “awful” that Taz scraped together the money to get a colonoscopy. His first diagnosis: stage II colon cancer. At first, Taz said that it was not treated like it was anything too dreadful to face, but later he received the final diagnosis: stage II colon cancer, and stage IV liver cancer.
He started to see a cancer specialist and said that the doctor had horrible bedside manner, and told him to go home and live his life. For Taz, this was unacceptable. He still had young sons!
Taz met another provider in the office and said they hit it off instantly and the doctor gave him hope. He credits Dr. Patel at Stuart Oncology for prolonging his life.
Recently Taz stopped responding to his treatments, and was referred to Moffitt Cancer Center. He is hopeful that there will be a new treatment regimen to keep him on the path to healing, and has agreed to seek experimental treatment too. Taz further credits Dr. Alejo locally for being there, anytime day or night!
I would suggest if you meet Taz, you just can’t say no.
Taz and his relationship with the Bragels is a sight to behold. He notes that sometimes when he has trouble sleeping, he will wake up and go to the Brown Cow and sit to wait for Mark to come in and open up. He retorted, “One time I got there at 4 a.m. and the police checked on me several times.”
We laughed, that it must have been a slow night in the city. When asked about his fondness for going to the Brown Cow, he said, “This is my happy place. If I show up late, or not at all, they’re calling.” Taz goes every day he’s able, staying a little while or most of the day. He enjoys talking with those who come in and he loves his coffee.
When asked where he gets his motivation, he said it’s his sister, Tammy, who is also fighting breast and bone cancer for the past seven years, who helps him get himself “back together.” He credits Jolene, his fiancé for “pushing me.”
Taz did talk about going to treatment, and says he looks around for those who are no longer there, and counts that “four are gone.” He recalled recently offering support to a young cancer patient, who is also a new father. “I even shaved my head to match his,” before both of their respective hair fell out. Taz noted, “I stay focused, positive and busy.”
While Taz didn’t talk about it much in the interview, I would urge those interested to check out the Go Fund Me page that has been created to help him with expenses, as he is not able to work, and his fiancé recently had surgery from an on-the-job injury. I can’t think of a nicer guy who could use our help in his fight. If you ever stop in at the Brown Cow, make sure to say hi to Taz. What a great guy!
Go Fund Me: https://www.gofundme.com/help-taz-tracy-faye-fight-cancer.
Leah Suarez is a freelance writer.