1/05/18

Septuagenarian tackles breast cancer diagnosis with grace

At 79 years old, Janice Cornell may not look like the typical breast cancer patient. A smile on her face and festive hats are the norm. With a family history of both breast and colon cancer, she stayed on top of yearly mammograms, she’s always been healthy – she’s never even broken a bone.

When a routine self-breast examine threatened her welcoming smile and positive outlook, she sought help, rallied her family and did what she needed.

“I felt something. It seemed silly to worry about it at my age but I still got checked out,” Cornell said about the decision that may have saved her life.

Cornell started treatments for breast cancer including chemotherapy followed by a double mastectomy.

Like many people recently diagnosed with cancer, Cornell was worried and overwhelmed with information. Her daughter took time off to ensure she made every appointment along with support other family and friends.

Carle Cancer Center offers a multi-disciplinary approach to care for patients with cancers.

“Our multi-disciplinary team brings together specialties so each phase of a patient's journey will take place at one location and during one appointment,” said Anna Higham, MD, surgical oncologist, who recently was inducted to the Mattoon High School Hall of Fame.

She sees patients at Mattoon on Hurst as part of the new comprehensive visits available in the area. A homecoming for her, she sees many familiar faces.

Cornell said this approach was helpful to her needing transportation and support from her daughter during her appointments. It saved her time and gas. Previously she would have needed to drive to Urbana for treatment.

“It was all so organized. I had all of the dates, times and next steps clearly explained. I knew I’d be seeing all the doctors in the same day,” Cornell said.

Convenient and time-saving for the patient but also beneficial to coordinating care and providing the best treatment options with doctors discussing plans and comparing notes in real time.

During chemotherapy, Cornell recognized a special nurse who also treated her husband who passed away from cancer nine years ago.

“I was very pleased to see Andre Metzelaars and Melanie Carwell when I had my first treatment. They were so special to my husband and me. It was reassuring to have them caring for me too,” Cornell said.

Cornell’s commitment to annual mammograms and monthly self-exams caught her cancer early and allows for more treatment options.

“I sought help and knew God would take care of me, and I’ve never looked back,” she said.

Cornell soon will celebrate her 80 birthday with her family – a milestone for sure but celebrated more sweetly this year on the road to recovery.

“She’s battling this with grace,” said Dr. Higham.