Surviving cancer: Local women grateful for doctors, friends who helped her through oral cancer battle

Sunday, August 5, 2012
Jean Cook, seated, is surrounded by friends and family July 31 at her home. Front: Cook, Michael Williams and Michael Dixon. Middle: Alice Woodall, Imagene Martin, Linda Fisher, JoAnn Moore and Beverly Hagerty. Back: Ken Martin, the Rev. Nathan Burgell, Bill Woodall Sr., Bill Woodall Jr. and James Banken. (ADAM VOGLER)

By Jean Nance Cook

I am writing this article in hopes it will make people more aware of cancer and what progress is being made to help those diagnosed with it.

I was raised in Cape Girardeau and attended Trinity Lutheran School and Central High School. In 1962 I married the love of my life, Charles Nance. We left Cape Girardeau as Charles joined the Army and spent 24 years traveling to places like Germany, Alaska, South Carolina and California. After retiring from the military we moved back to our wonderful hometown of Cape Girardeau.

When the veterans home opened my husband was hired as a main cook. We were so happy. He always enjoyed the veterans' stories and made a difference in their lives.

In 1993 we had our yearly physicals and received the shock of our lives. Charles had a rare form of cancer, and four months later he died at age 53. Here I was a widow at 49 and in shock.

Jean Cook at her home Tuesday, July 31. (ADAM VOGLER)

In April 2007, I was diagnosed with oral cancer on my tongue. I had surgery to take half of my tongue off from the ear to under my chin. Lymph nodes and all surrounding tissue were removed. I had a wonderful surgeon in Dr. Richard A. Martin, an ear, nose and throat doctor who saved my life.

But one year later the cancer came back in my neck. I went in for surgery again and more tissue had to be taken, but Dr. Martin and I never gave up. After that I had six weeks of radiation with Dr. Tapan Roy. As of today the cancer has not returned. I still have check ups with Dr. Martin, Dr. Roy and my dentist, Dr. Bollinger.

It was a long road, but I want people to be aware of oral cancer. It can be caught in time, and hopefully my story will help save lives.

My advice is to check your mouth daily and eat a diet of healthy foods -- fruits and vegetables, whole grains, etc.

What I learned from my cancer is to value life, enjoy every day we have, and thank the good Lord for all he does for us. All you have to do is ask. He is always there.

Thanks to all the good people in Cape Girardeau who have helped me through this journey with cancer.

Alice and Bill Woodall drove me to my appointments, grocery shopped, mowed my grass, etc.

A special thanks to Dexter Bar-B-Que. The manager, Michael, and staff have gone out of their way with excellent food and checking on me to make sure I'm OK.

Thanks to Van Matre Buick for picking my car up and bringing it back when I was too sick to drive.

Friends have picked up the mail for me, and my church family at Trinity Lutheran in Cape Girardeau has visited me at home.

Jean Cook at her home Tuesday, July 31. (ADAM VOGLER)

The American Cancer Society has helped me and many other people in so many ways with wigs and support. None of us want to hear we have cancer, but with so much support here there is no excuse.

We have wonderful hospitals where we don't have to travel far for treatments.

Radiation can kill regular cells as well as bone. When I needed one tooth pulled I saw Dr. Jerry L. Kinder in Cape who runs the wound center which has hyperbaric treatments to ease complications of radiation therapy. The whole staff is so caring.

I could go on about how many wonderful restaurants and so many good Samaritans we have in Cape; we are all truly blessed to live in a community like this with people caring for people. That's what it is all about!

You would be surprised at how just the smallest good deed means more than you know. Even with the health issues I've been through, I still help people.

Thank you to all those who have helped me through this journey. Put a helping hand out and think how we are blessed with family and friends. That's what it's all about, people helping people.

God bless.

Jean Nance Cook resides in Cape Girardeau. This was submitted in loving memory of Cook's father, Albert Martin, who died July 15, 2005, at the age of 83.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: