October not just for breast cancer

Published 12:01 am Thursday, October 25, 2007

Natchez — During a routine exam, Jack Cupit’s doctor found a lump.

Tests were run and run again, all with the same results — normal, nothing wrong. Unsatisfied with the diagnosis, the 67-year-old got a second opinion. More tests, same results. Only after six biopsies did doctors discover Cupit’s prostate cancer. That was 14 years ago.

Ten years after her father’s diagnosis, Charman Cupit found a lump near her collarbone. Her doctor ran tests, all with same results — normal, nothing wrong. She was told to wait six months and see what happens. Unsatisfied with the diagnosis, Charman got a second opinion. Five days later, she got the phone call. Her lump was malignant. She had thyroid cancer.

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For both Jack and Charman, fear was the first, and for a while, the only emotion.

“When I was diagnosed, I was literally scared to death,” Jack said. “I thought I had a death warrant signed. Until a doctor tells you that you’ve got cancer, you can’t understand that.”

“I felt like it was all over my body,” Charman said. “Of course there was a lot of fear, I was scared.”

After diagnosis, Jack was given three options — do nothing, undergo radiation therapy or have surgery. He opted for surgery, which he now credits with saving his life. When Charman faced the same decision years later, she opted for surgery and radiation therapy.

Both chose to fight their cancer and both lived.

“Some people think if you don’t know about it, it won’t kill you,” Jack said. “Rather than dealing with it, they ignore it.”

Like many families, cancer was nothing new for the Cupits. Jack’s wife and Charman’s mother, Glenda Cupit, lost her father to lung cancer when she was 16.

“It’s all over my side of the family,” Glenda said. “Somehow though, Jack ended up with it and not me.”

Jack and Charman have both been cancer-free since undergoing surgery. Although they’ve defeated their disease, life after cancer has not been easy. Charman takes two pills every day, and will continue to do so for the rest of her life. The worst part though, is their fear that it may one day return.

“It’s always in the back of your mind,” Jack said. “Any aches or pains make you worry.”

“It’s definitely a concern,” Charman said. “It’s always there. We don’t take anything for granted anymore.”

Jack is adamant, however, that there is life after cancer diagnosis. For the Cupits, that life is dedicated to raising awareness for all types of cancer.

“I tell anyone that will listen,” Charman said. “You have to get checked out.”

“Every man should get a physical and get a prostate exam,” Jack said. “A man is stupid not to. It saved my life.

Jack, a hunter’s education instructor, even tells his teenage students to get an exam.

“I preach to them about the good Lord and prostate checks,” he said.

Charman’s dedication to fighting her cancer led her to the American Cancer Society. She turned to them when she needed help and now volunteers her time so others can do the same.

The organization that helped her deal with her disease is making sure others know about all types of cancer. ACS will have a public cancer forum today at 6:30 p.m. at the Vidalia Conference and Convention Center.

“The forum is for anyone who wants to attend,” ACS representative Kathy Prospere said. “We want people to have more information about all types of cancer, not just breast cancer. Other types of cancer get overlooked this time of year, we want to make sure this doesn’t happen.”

Cancer survivors like Jack and Charman will tell their stories at the forum and ACS will provide information on the different kinds of cancer.