By Don Eisenberg
My wife of 30 years had always been pretty healthy. She didn’t engage in risky behavior, except to marry me, her brothers used to joke.
Jan was 50 when she felt a lump on her chest and went for her first mammogram. Later testing and biopsy confirmed that it was breast cancer, stage III, including some lymph nodes. Treatment would involve 56 days of radiation, followed by surgery and chemotherapy.
This diagnosis seemed very surreal to both of us. We had faced many challenges during our three decades of marriage, and, with the Lord’s help, we committed to fight this new enemy together, too. Being people of faith, we prayed and engaged our church, family and friends to join us.
The doctors recommended a mastectomy. After considering the known facts at that time, Jan opted for a lumpectomy. She had weekly chemo treatments involving seven different drugs in different doses and combinations, and we reorganized our lives to adjust to the many side effects of treatment. Later, when she needed transfusions of red blood cells and platelets, we set up a system of donors to assure that she would have more than she needed at all times.
About 18 months into treatment, we discovered her cancer had metastasized to her lung lining and bones. Chemo continued, but we lost her in 2007.
The impact of her loss to me, our kids and other family members and friends was incredible. Thankfully, we had amazing support from our church and family, co-workers and friends, plus a loving God—though we didn’t understand the outcome.
I’m sharing her story in honor of National Cancer Survivors Day, and in hopes of encouraging you to be vigilant with your own health. More and more people are surviving cancer. The better informed you are, the more likely you are to be able to avoid it or beat it.
Earlier detection and an awareness of family history might well have changed our outcome. Following my wife’s diagnosis, it turned out that both her mother and grandmother had had brushes with cancer.
All along the way, we tried to learn as much as we could about her disease and treatment options. My advice to anyone facing a similar diagnosis is to keep digging. Insist on information and options, second opinions and treatment facility alternatives.
Congratulations to the survivors and their families! Rejoice in every day you are given. For others, be watchful, be informed, be proactive—see your doctor regularly and never delay annual screenings.
Life is precious. Protect it and cherish each moment and each person.
Don Eisenberg Contact
UT Foundation, Inc.
Don is director of development for the UT Knoxville College of Arts and Sciences. He enjoys helping UT alumni and friends find their passion to support at UT, whether that be students, faculty or other opportunities. Born in Nashville, and having lived in England, Africa and several states, he is delighted to finally live on the “peaceful side of the Smokies” in Townsend, Tennessee, with his cat, Lucy, and to share the grandeur of God’s creation with visiting family and friends.