Good Cause: Finding strength to fight breast cancer
By Michelle Linn-Gust For The Sun October 30, 2012 1:00PM
Kim Jewett receives chemotherapy earlier this year for breast cancer at Edward Cancer Center with son Tyler and daughter Kalli. | Submitted
For women younger than 40 who have been diagnosed with breast cancer: www.youngsurvival.org
For young adults affected by cancer: www.imtooyoungforthis.org
For children whose parents have cancer: www.kidskonnected.org
The Edward Hospital website offers information under the cancer center about support groups and other resources at: www.edward.org/cancer
Linda Conlin, LCSW also is a contact at the Edward Cancer Center: 630-646-6054
Planned Parenthood in Aurora offers breast exams and other breast health services: 630-585-0500
Updated: December 1, 2012 4:38PM
In the midst of her cancer treatment at age 31 in 2008, Kim Jewett’s daughter Kalli, who was six at the time, begged her to go upstairs and tuck her in. Jewett tried to explain to Kalli that she was exhausted and sick. She’d had a double-mastectomy, reconstruction and was undergoing six months of chemotherapy. Jewett said a silent prayer, asking that she might find the energy to get up the stairs to her daughter.
As she made it the second floor of the Jewett home, she heard her daughter praying out loud, “Dear God, please give Mommy the strength to fight breast cancer.” Jewett realized that if her daughter was praying for her to fight breast cancer, then she had to do all she could to beat it.
Dr. Kai Tao, the associate medical director and vice president of clinical operations at Planned Parenthood in Aurora, stresses the importance of early detection for younger women. Because Planned Parenthood generally works with women of child-bearing age, breast cancer isn’t something many women in their 20s and 30s are thinking about.
“People think it hits women later in life,” Tao said. “You can’t look at a person and say you might be someone with breast cancer. Part of the education is learning it can affect anyone.”
The reality is that 80 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history but early detection makes it more treatable.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, breast cancer accounts for 27 percent of all new cases of cancer diagnosed in women, and it’s the second leading cause of death by cancer behind lung cancer.
Because little is known why young women develop breast cancer, Tao stressed the importance of maintaining a healthy weight, being active and limiting alcohol intake.
For younger women who are diagnosed with breast cancer, the issues are unique because they often have young families and are working.
“They are concerned for their own mortality,” said Linda Conlin, a social worker at the Edward Cancer Center. “They want to know what this will mean for their family’s future.”
Or they might have entered a new relationship and they aren’t sure how the cancer will affect their sexuality and body image if they have to have one or both breasts removed. Some women might not have the opportunity to have children after the cancer treatment.
Plainfield resident Jewett knows that road well. While her mother had brain cancer, Jewett was genetically tested and the results were negative. After surviving it the first time, the cancer came back this year, and she has undergone surgery again and just begun radiation. She is being treated Edward Cancer Center with MD Anderson in Houston overseeing her care.
“The second time was heart wrenching,” she said. “I had to go home and tell my kids. I knew they would say, ‘Mom, you lied to me’ (since the cancer was gone from the first bout) followed by ‘Are you going to die?’”
Her concern for their anxiety and worry, and knowing that now the goal is to stay one step ahead of the cancer and slow its progression, was why she implemented “Thoughtful Thursdays.” She wanted to distract her kids from their fears.
She and her kids brainstormed ideas how they could volunteer and contribute. When her son mentioned this to Jewett’s oncologist, he suggested fleece blankets to keep chemotherapy patients warm during treatment. Jewett and the kids made one blanket that Jewett then gave to a woman in a wheelchair leaving the cancer center as Jewett waited for her own treatment. They found out later that the woman died that night but Jewett found comfort knowing that the blanket covered the woman in her last hours.
The project has morphed into something much bigger through their school Grande Park Elementary in the Oswego School District. The students made 300 blankets to donate to cancer patients.
“If I can teach my children to be thoughtful and kind, the world can be a better place,” Jewett said. “This is kind of how I heal myself, by looking forward.”