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Ray of Hope...

Janice Ray

Janice Ray seemed the least likely person to get breast cancer. She was a fit healthy eater with no family history or genetic markers for the disease. But working many years for a family physician who emphasized wellness meant Janice did a regular self-exam, which, one month in 2008, led to the diagnosis of a malignant mass. It was the beginning of a long road back to health.

After a double mastectomy and the removal of 25 lymph nodes (two of which were positive for cancer), she began six cycles of chemotherapy in February 2009, followed by six weeks of daily radiation therapy that summer. “It was a long year,” she recalled. After taking most of 2010 off to rest and regroup, late that year Janice began the process of reconstruction which began with a 13-hour microsurgical ‘TRAM flap’ procedure and was completed with implant surgery in June 2011. Except for the specialized microsurgery, all procedures and treatments were performed at Rideout Memorial or the Rideout Cancer Center.

It was the Cancer Center that became Janice’s home away from home, and she cannot speak highly enough of everyone who works there, from medical staff to administration. “Oncology nurses there are definitely a very special breed, but everyone there is caring, helpful, gentle and hopeful, and you need all of that when facing a terrible illness. It’s an amazing place, from beginning to end.”

Her treatment team was led by her oncologist, Dr. Pamela Oster, whom Janice calls “my phenomenal woman.” She says, “you really get that she deeply cares about what she does, and about her patients. She encourages second opinions, always has an answer or gets one immediately, and will call you after a visit just to settle your mind. Whatever it is, she’s on it. ”

Now cancer-free, and happy to know she did not pass on a breast cancer gene to her children or granddaughter, Janice still returns regularly to the Cancer Center as a volunteer and serves on its Patient and Family Advisory Council. She recently completed her training as a “Peer Navigator” in the WeCARE! program that matches newly-diagnosed cancer patients with trained cancer survivors who act as confidential and compassionate guides through uncertain waters. The program is available to any newly-diagnosed cancer patient, regardless of where they receive treatment.

“The Cancer Center was my rock, and so I’ve gone from patient to volunteer to trained Peer Navigator to help others through their own journeys,” said Janice.