Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wednesday Warrior ~ Breast Cancer Survivor Makes Her Passion Her Mission

Today's Wednesday warrior is Elyn Jacobs. Elyn, her mom, and sister all battled breast cancer. Elyn was her mom's main advocate and it was this experience as well as her own that made her realize how important it is to have someone be an advocate for you when going through a diagnosis such as cancer.  As nurses we KNOW this to be true. We feel blessed to be in the medical field and have used our knowledge to advocate for many family members and friends during their own medical ordeals. 

Elyn was so passionate about the need for people to have advocates when dealing with a cancer diagnosis that she left her job on Wall Street, where she had worked for 23 years, to start her own business of being what she calls a "cancer coach." She helps anyone dealing with a cancer diagnosis navigate through the medical system.  Her story is wonderful and we feel so strongly about what she is doing that we thought she was the perfect person to be our Wednesday warrior!!  When you read her story below, you will know why she is such a brave warrior in a world that can be hard to navigate with a cancer diagnosis. 

"My mother succumbed to breast cancer in 2007, after a long, grueling battle.  I was diagnosed just prior to her death and my sister a year later.  My mother always said “I never meant to get cancer.”  Nobody intends to get it and nobody should ever feel at fault for getting cancer. I never meant to get it either, so after battling breast cancer I realized that I would do everything possible to avoid a recurrence.  I began with extensive research to better understand the causes which led to certain lifestyle changes I have made. Cancer is a multifactorial disease.  Simply put, several elements combine to either produce or eliminate a cancer cell. By changing the environment in which cancer was permitted to grow, you reduce its ability to take hold again. I exercise, but no longer so intensely that I compromise my immune system.  I gradually changed my diet to a mostly plant based one, and cut back on my wine intake. Some people eat to live and some live to eat.  I do both, I just make better choices now and concentrate on foods with cancer fighting nutrients. I take supportive supplements to strengthen my immune system. I have taken steps to reduce my stress, adding yoga and other relaxation modalities into my routine.  I avoid situations that I know will be stressful, such as opting to take a taxi rather than drive on a rainy day in traffic.

Elyn with her beautiful boys
From beginning to end of my journey, I had an incredible team of doctors who empowered me to take control of the situation.  My questions were answered, my voice heard. When faced with a life threatening disease, you can acquire amazing strength if you have a solid plan and strong team behind you. I reflected on my mother’s ordeal, and in remembering all the errors and near mishaps, I came to realize that likely my experience was far better than most. 
Elyn's mother 4 months before she succumbed to breast cancer
My mother’s journey was strife with episodes of doctor’s orders, not teamwork, and I had to intervene many times. I remember one particularly disturbing occurrence. She had just endured some substantial surgery for recurrence when her doctor called to say a follow up scan detected a spot on her lung.  The doctor recommended a biopsy procedure resembling open heart surgery.  I explained that my mother was very weak and that such invasive surgery would kill her.  The doctor gave us no options.  I began calling other facilities to see if there was some other way.  I soon learned that my mother could likely have a needle biopsy.  I called a doctor I knew at the New York City location of my mother’s cancer center and asked why this was not an option for her.  He calmly explained that of course it is, but that the adjunct facility simply is not aware of this option.  I was stunned.  This was a prominent cancer facility. The needle biopsy was performed in New York, no cancer; we could have lost her to an unnecessary surgical biopsy. Many women find it a challenge to find a doctor who can hear and respond to her opinions and questions, and all too often women are pushed into a path for treatment that does not suit her core needs or desires.

I found my new passion.  I wanted to be the voice.  I wanted to make sure that all women were heard by their doctors and received the best possible care. I wanted to help women to reduce their risk of recurrence. I wanted others to know the value of complementary therapies during and post treatment. I wanted to help others get past their cancer and into cancer-free lives. I became a cancer coach.

Elyn's favorite spot...the beach in front of her parent's beach house...beautiful!!

I have been successful in helping women better understand their diagnoses and treatment options and in helping them choose the right team and path for treatment. Cancer treatment requires an individualized plan, as every cancer is unique and there is not one plan for treatment that fits the needs of all.

Information is power. My goal is to get this information to women and to empower them to make the best choices for them, for their cancer. I accompany women on visits to the doctor where I take notes and ensure the tough questions get asked.  I know that under these circumstances, it is very difficult to concentrate on all that a doctor is saying. Together we choose a team, even if that means second or even third opinions and firing a few doctors. Once team and treatment plans are chosen, we work together through the process. I feel strongly that no woman should have to face cancer alone.

My role is not often easy, but I want to make a difference.  Helping others has helped me to heal, and the appreciation of my clients tells me I am making a difference."  

To learn more about Elyn's mission and clients, please visit:

No comments:

Post a Comment