Stand Up to Cancer: They are


By Vivian Blevins

Contributing columnist

Ever lived in a place with known carcinogens in the ground, water, air or in the buildings where you worked or lived?

Vance Jacobs, 82, a retired professor from Lee College in Baytown, Texas, talks openly about his years in the Texas Gulf Coast where with the discovery of a large oil field in Beaumont, Texas, in 1901, the rush was on to retrieve and sell this liquid gold. The area is known as the Golden Triangle (An acquaintance of mine called it “the smell of money”) or the Center of the Cancer Belt.

At age 50, Jacob’s mother died of breast cancer that had spread to her liver; his father, a 35-year employee of a refinery at Port Arthur, Texas, where he was exposed to butadiene, died of glioblastoma at age 60; Jacobs was diagnosed with prostate cancer at age 55 when he went to his doctor for routine blood pressure monitoring.

After he was told in a cavalier way that he could have an appointment in three months, he took immediate action and sought a premier cancer surgeon, Dr. Peter T. Scardino. Turned down for an appointment because of the doctor’s busy schedule, Jacobs resorted to subterfuge -which involved a relative and a former intern of the surgeon- to get an appointment, had prostate surgery, and has been cancer free for 27 years.

So instead of dying in midlife, he now enjoys fishing in the lakes outside of Missoula, Montana, with a spinning tackle and his secret weapon, a Super Duper lure; playing with his two-year-old granddaughter Zoey; and being with his wife Jocelyn who has recovered from breast cancer which was discovered with her regular mammograms. He avoids the river that runs through Missoula because it has known carcinogens from the mines upstream.

Jacobs recommends that men pay close attention to their prostate health and have an annual PSA beginning at age 40. He also encourages those who sense that something is amiss to seek medical care promptly.

Urbana, Ohio, resident Jacqueline Thompson shares her story: “As an oral cancer survivor, I can relate to the radiation/chemo cocktail. “Radiation brain” is real. After nearly 12 years, it still hangs around to haunt me. Each time I look in the mirror, I am reminded of the damage it has done to my face. Thank God for my loving family and friends!”

Susan Armour-Tesno of Bellevue, Kentucky, expresses concern for her daughter and offers some advice: “My younger daughter is battling small cell cervical cancer. Her second round of chemo has been very, very hard on her body. Women, take time to take care of yourself.”

When Vivian Hazell of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, was diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago, she says, “I never thought of death or pain. I thought of it as an unwelcome interruption as we had planned a trip to Vancouver for the next week.

“When I told my family, they followed my lead. My oldest daughter owned a tavern at the time, so she arranged a live band to play at my ‘Goodbye to Mom’s Left Breast and Blues Party.’ Friends, family and strangers all gathered in love and celebration! I was very fortunate to have a peaceful recovery and found myself in Vancouver the very next year.”

Patricia Market of Cape Coral, Florida, has explicit advice: “Make sure to get your colonoscopy regularly. I was late by two years and had to have my colon resected.”

After recent, extensive, and successful work as the chair of an area Breast Wishes Foundation, Tipp City, Ohio, resident Jan Sykora Hillman reports that she was feeling fatigued in early 2003, and her “joie de vivre” had diminished. Her physician recommended several procedures in mid May after which she received news which was “shocking, breathtaking, and totally unexpected”- rare metastatic breast cancer in her stomach. In 1986 Hillman was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer and had a lumpectomy. In 1997, she was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer and had a mastectomy.

Additional tests this year indicated cancer in additional locations in her body, and she is currently undergoing chemo.

Hillman’s words inspire and humble me: “I am an equal opportunity healer and have continued to meditate and pray daily, keep up with my yoga and stretching practices, eat healthfully, walk, garden, and have weekly reiki and chiropractic treatments.” She continues, “The outpouring of love, prayer, and support from friends, family, and complete strangers has been astoundingly beautiful.”

She indicates that she is keeping her life perspective in laser focus: “forgiving, letting go and healing.”

In August 2022, Richard Dennehy, 83, of San Antonio, Texas, was talking with his oldest granddaughter, a physician’s assistant, when she urged him to seek medical advice because of his “nagging cough.” By September of that same year, he had been diagnosed with small cell lung cancer. He began treatment, and after some initial remission, the cancer returned and was diagnosed as “very aggressive.”

Dennehy rejected the offer of treatment, projected to be 20% effective, and is now in home hospice.

Dennehy reports that he was “one of the cool guys in the 1950s with a pack of cigarettes tucked into my shirt sleeve, and I smoked until my early forties.” He also spent his work life as an electrician on construction sites and was exposed, as he reports, to the “contaminates that we know about now.”

He says, “What I have learned in the past few months is that I have had a great life with God’s special gift to me, my wife Dolores; three children; 11 grandkids; and three great-grandkids with another one on the way. I am totally at peace with what is happening to me. I know that God will give me the strength I need to get through this part of my life.”

Dennehy’s advice is as follows: “If you have smoked in the past or if you now smoke and you are having any breathing problems, get to your doctor to get x-rays of your lungs periodically as the earlier you catch the signs of cancer, the better the survival rate.”

Thanks to those from around the country who have stood up and shared their stories and advice. Be smart about cancer and stand up for yourself, your family, and your friends.

Vivian B. Blevins. Ph.D., teaches telecommunication employees from around the country and students at Edison State Community College and works with veterans. You may reach her at 937-778-3815 or [email protected].

No posts to display