Everyday Heroes – Cancer Survivor Story: Jeanine Ferguson

Name: Jeanine Ferguson
Age: 53
Career: Special Education Educational Support Professional in the Kenosha Unified School District

Interesting Fact: I decided I was an artist at age 40.

How were you impacted by cancer? I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer at age 30ish.  I underwent a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation.  I had a recurrence three years ago where I then had a mastectomy and reconstruction.  I refused chemotherapy, and I was not a candidate for radiation because of prior radiation.

The first time I was diagnosed, I read everything I could get my hands on.  I read about different chemotherapy options, mind body healing strategies, herbal supplements, and meditation…things that were not very mainstream back then.  I joined cancer support groups. I talked to my doctor about every new theory published.  He was a very, very patient person, explaining to me why some of what I was reading was rehashed BS, that established medical protocol was not perfect but it’s the best we have.  I trusted him, and I still do.

The second time I was diagnosed, I tried to avoid (not always successfully) going on the internet.  I just did what I felt was right and that was no chemotherapy.  Many people questioned that, but I decided the increased risk of adult leukemia or lymphoma just wasn’t worth it. Ironically, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and ended up on Methotrexate (a chemotherapy drug) anyway.

How did you cope? It’s been 20 some years since my first diagnosis, and cancer is just part of my life. I’m not in active treatment. I was raised Catholic. Saying the rosary has always been a coping strategy for me for life in general.

What support did you receive? I’ve always had the support of my family, especially my mom and dad.  I was supported in very meaningful ways by Facebook friends and longtime friends, friends I’d lost touch with and reconnected with on Facebook. My co-workers were supportive as well.

What advice would you offer to someone currently battling cancer?  Cancer is what you have not who you are.  Sometimes being strong and smiling through it just isn’t possible.  It’s okay, not to smile. It’s okay to be angry. We all have our own ways of dealing.  Some people will get depressed after treatment is over, will grieve the loss of their “before cancer” self.  Do not be ashamed to seek psychological help.

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