Blackwood Encourages Anyone Going Through Cancer to Stay Positive and Not Give Up
The first time Janet Blackwood went in for chemotherapy, she broke down and cried.
“I was scared to death,” said Blackwood, a Rocky Face resident who is now in remission. “Of course, they [at Peeples Cancer Institute (PCI)] were precious and sweet and said, ‘Are you OK?’ I said, ‘I’m just scared.’ They told me, ‘You have nothing to be scared of. You’re going to be fine.’ I felt it coming from their heart.”
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and, according to the CDC, there are 240,000 women diagnosed every year in the United States. It is the second most common cancer among women, second only to skin cancer. But breast cancer has also become increasingly curable thanks to medical advancements.
Hamilton Health Care System has provided oncology services for a long time, but until PCI opened in January 2020 patients had to go to different locations for diagnostic services, treatments and pharmacy needs. PCI provides access to advanced comprehensive cancer care under one roof – including diagnostics, chemo, radiation and supportive medications.
But cancer, while often curable, is never easy.
Blackwood’s cancer journey began in 2021. The images from her regularly scheduled mammogram in May came back clear, but in August, she noticed a lump under one arm. Her doctor suspected it was a swollen lymph node related to her recent COVID-19 vaccine, but he sent her in for another mammogram as a precaution.
“A week later, I was in surgery,” Blackwood said.
Unfortunately, her cancer did not behave as expected. What started as a lumpectomy for a mass thought to be a small, operable tumor turned out to be a sprawling region of “specks” of cancer that couldn’t be addressed with surgery alone. Blackwood ended up undergoing 22 weeks of chemo treatments, 30 rounds of radiation and an elective double mastectomy to eliminate the chance of being diagnosed again.
Blackwood said that while the treatment wasn’t easy, it also didn’t turn out to be as horrendous as she had feared. Her entire care team worked to ensure she was comfortable, she said, adjusting medications to help with nausea, fatigue, and other symptoms.
“You hear the word ‘chemo,’ and you automatically think you’re going to be sick for the next 22 weeks. I wasn’t,” Blackwood said. “They did everything they could to make me feel good.”
Today, she can’t say enough about the positive experience she had at PCI.
“The good Lord put me in the right place at the right time with the right people, from the doctors to the nurses to the sweet girls that did all of my infusions,” she said. “They were so loving. You just felt so loved and cared for there.”
Blackwood said she also had a strong support system outside of the hospital, from her husband who was “a trooper praying for me every day” to a special friend who sent her a Bible verse that became her daily encouragement: “I will not die but live, and I will proclaim what the Lord has done (Psalm 118:17, New International Version).”
Eric Turner, MD, the oncologist and medical director at PCI, will always hold a special place in her heart, Blackwood said, as will several other members of her treatment team.
She encourages anyone going through cancer to stay positive and not give up.
“Every night when you go to bed, think of something positive that happened that day – anything,” she said. “Mindset is a whole lot of getting over cancer. You can’t roll over in pity. You just get up every day and say, ‘I’m going to do this.’”
Blackwood said it’s also important to remember cancer isn’t the severe sentence it once was. Cry when you need to, is her advice, but don’t give up.
“You can win,” she said. “There are so many things out there fighting for you – medications, doctors, friends praying for you. You just have to keep your faith.”