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
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.