Jex discusses life with cancer

Published 1:14 am Sunday, October 28, 2007

She was told she would die nine years ago. After being cancer-free for almost two years, Randa Jex was given the news. She had stage four metastatic breast cancer. The disease had spread to her bones. She was now terminal.

Jex refused the diagnosis. She refused to accept that cancer would kill her.

“I told the doctor I wasn’t stage four, I wasn’t terminal,’” she said. “He replied, ‘Yes Randa you are.’”

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The 60-year-old’s cancer came as no surprise to her. She had been labeled high risk and was seeing a doctor years before her diagnosis. Jex was initially diagnosed with stage two cancer in 1996. After intense radiation, chemotherapy and a mastectomy, her cancer went into remission. Jex thought she had defeated it.

“I put the cancer on the back burner then,” she said. “I had a family and I had to take care of them.”

When she got the news that the disease had returned, Jex continued to focus on her family and her work. She knew her three children needed a mother, so she chose not to worry about the cancer.

“I knew I was terminally ill, but I chose to live my life,” she said. “We didn’t make a big deal about it. My family came first.”

After regular chemotherapy treatments, the cancer went back into remission in 1999. It stayed that way until 2004.

“I’ve been battling hard since 2004,” she said. “My doctor has kept me alive, he has battled with me.”

Jex now receives weekly chemotherapy treatments and despite the pain, discomfort and sickness that accompanies the treatments, she refuses to let the cancer defeat her. Every Tuesday, Jex sits for hours while nurses pump drugs into a port located on her upper chest.

“The drugs make me feel horrible after the treatments,” she said. “But I stay positive. I see the same cancer patients when I go in every week. We’re not sad, we’re just living our lives.”

Jex’s attitude towards her cancer is nothing short of amazing. She speaks as casually about the disease as someone might speak about the weather. The fact that the cancer will one day kill her doesn’t seem to upset Jex.

“I wake up every day and say I will live,” she said. “I choose to wake up and not be a sick, grumpy, old woman.”

Jex credits her positive attitude and her desire to see her children grow up with keeping her alive.

“I never thought I would see them all them all graduate from college,” she said. “Now I have to stay alive long enough to see them get married.” Jex’s two sons both have weddings planned for next spring.

Jex acknowledges that other cancer patients see her as an inspiration, but that’s not a role she actively seeks.

“I don’t do support groups,” she said. “I don’t want to stand up and say that I’m a survivor because in five minutes, I may not be. I’m not trying to inspire people. I’m just trying to stay alive.”