Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

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July 13, 2014

Cancer survivor looking to life ahead

EFFINGHAM — After Jan Pike’s mother defeated her first round of breast cancer, she swore she would never put her body through the agony of recovery again.

Two years later, in 1999, Jan Pike was diagnosed with the same cancer. However, it was not until the hair she once put up and ran her fingers through littered the floor and the palms of her hands that she fully understood what was happening.

“I knew it was going to happen, but it was still that realization that it’s really happening to me,” she said.

The mother of two told her story publicly for the first time recently during a dinner hosted for cancer survivors by Relay for Life, an event she avidly supports.  Pike achieved a successful recovery, though the disease would make its way through her loved ones, each time resurfacing at what should have been times of optimism for the family.

In the span of a few years, cancer took the life of Pike’s close friend; it infected her mother for a second time; it threatened the life of her 29-year-old niece, and an unusual mass in her daughter’s breast spread fear throughout the family.

Her daughter’s scare was a false alarm, though Pike said she took the appropriate actions by going to the doctor and getting a biopsy.

Still, Pike knows that the fear of being diagnosed with cancer is enough to keep potential survivors away from a doctor’s office.

“I guess as I look at it as the earlier you catch it, the better you’re going to be,” she said. “Even if you have that bad feeling, you need to go and get something taken care of.”

In 1999, with two children in high school, Pike received the news she never wanted to hear but knew was coming.

“I was kind of prepared a little bit for it but you’re never really prepared to hear that, because you’re whole life changes from that moment,” she said.

Accepting her disease came hard for Pike, who spent hours crying in privacy, and banging on her shower walls, determined to let no one see her at her weakest.

When a doctor sensed her suffering, however, things began to turn around.

“My doctor told me, ‘You need to grieve. You need to cry and you need to let that out,’” she said. “I think sometimes people try to be strong and you have to have those other people to lean on.”

Pike tried to stay active for her children, and despite her exhaustion, put on a happy face when they arrived from school.

One day, however, after several rounds of treatment, Pike’s kids arrived from school to find their mother without a cap on, and saw for the first time, the pieces of their mother that cancer had physically taken.

“It gets to that point where it doesn’t matter,” she said. “It’s me. It’s part of me. Just take it.”

For the past seven years, Pike has offered her time, hard work and emotional support while volunteering with Relay for Life. Through her efforts, she feels she is able to give back to the community that has already lent itself to her. She is appreciative of the meals dropped off at her door, phone calls from friends who were willing to listen, and the strength of the family who watched her flip flop between being the child of a cancer survivor and a cancer survivor with children.

“I tried I guess as the mother to not let it stop me so much, but it does,” she said. “You have to let your body take time to heal and do what it needs to do. It does slow you down, but you just keep going.”

The Pike family is currently cancer free and things finally seem to be settling down. No matter what part of her journey Pike is venturing, she feels she has been handed a life that taught her to find the reason to keep living. She does this when times look grim, and when it appears as though she has already succeeded.

“We’re all back on track,” she said. “I’m not done yet. I have things I want to do.”

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