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Jill King

Three times a survivor

Reprinted from, Richmond, Indiana, October 10, 2010

Jill King of Cambridge City has spent many afternoons this fall watching her son, freshman J.J. King, play tennis with the Lincoln High School team.

When the 52-year-old isn’t following tennis, she is staying in touch with her daughter, Jordan, a senior at Oberlin College, and spending time with her husband, Jim. The family’s historic home on the National Road always requires upkeep, and King is involved in the community as well.

King is cancer free, but she has fought the disease three times since 1987.
The Kings had been married about a year when they made a mad dash to their car after a January 1987 basketball game at Indiana University in Bloomington. When the 29-year-old got home to Cambridge City, she found blood on her shirt from her right breast nipple.

“Instantly, I was extremely concerned,” King said.

She immediately sought her doctor’s help, and a biopsy determined she had breast cancer. King had a mastectomy on Feb. 4, 1987.

Her first chemotherapy treatment was on the day IU won the NCAA championship. She watched the game on her living room couch, feeling miserable. As Keith Smart hit the winning shot, King became sick to her stomach. She remained sick for several days.

Her next treatment also made her sick. To complete her four treatments, King had to be hospitalized.

Although doctors said the chemotherapy treatments might make it impossible for her to have children, the cancer survivor became pregnant more than a year later.
During the fifth month of her pregnancy, she discovered a lump in her armpit. Cancer had returned in her lymph nodes.

The recommended treatment was radiation.

A special form, which blocked the radiation from her womb, was made for King. After six weeks of radiation treatments at Indiana University Hospital, the tumor was eliminated.

During an ultrasound visit at IU Hospital, King was not only reassured that her baby was fine but treated to a baby shower by radiation therapists and other hospital staff.

“You just can’t imagine that feeling. I was so grateful that I was fine and the baby was fine. I was just in awe of those people and their kindness.”

Her daughter, Jordan, was born healthy, and King’s cancer was again in remission. She followed with hormone therapy, an artificial type of estrogen that wouldn’t feed cancerous cells.

After five years of hormone treatment, King stopped. Doctors didn’t recommend she become pregnant again, but she did. Jameson “J.J.” was born in November 1995.

During spring 2006, King and her family doctor began to have concerns about fibroids in her uterus. She put the outpatient surgery off until August, when her kids were back in school.

A few days after the surgery, her doctor called shocking her with the news that the fibroids showed endometrial stromal sarcoma, a cancer that affects the uterus lining and lining support wall.

Endometrial stromal sarcoma is estrogen dependent and might be related to the hormone therapy drug she took after breast cancer. While the drug blocks estrogen from feeding cancer cells in the breast, it might act like estrogen in other tissue, increasing the chance of endometrial or uterine cancer.

She had a hysterectomy in October 2006 at Indiana University Hospital in Indianapolis.

Tests done after the surgery also showed King had peritoneal cancer cells in the lubricating fluid that helps the organs move inside the abdomen. The peritoneum is a thin, delicate sheet of epithelial cells that lines the inside wall of the abdomen and covers the uterus.

She underwent radiation to kill those cancer cells.

As part of her treatment, King’s gynecologist arranged an appointment with an expert in uterine cancers at Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York. Her doctor prescribed Aromasin, which is designed to eliminate up to 99 percent of the remaining estrogen in her body to starve the cancer cells.

King remembers the doctor telling her, “‘I think if you take this drug, you’ll be OK.’

“That had to be one of the five best days of my life,” King said. “She gave me such a gift by putting it out there so simply.”

As a mother and a sister, King was concerned about her family and did the genetic testing for the gene which might make carriers predisposed to breast cancer. King learned she doesn’t carry the breast cancer gene, which means her sisters and her daughter have about the same risk of breast cancer as the general population.

She also had further testing to see if she had a gene that is associated with people who have multiple cancers, but she does not.

Although she is cancer free, King said she still wonders why she had cancer and why she has survived when others don’t.

She said after her endometrial stromal sarcoma diagnosis, she did a lot of Internet research and much of the information frightened her.

“While I certainly believe wholeheartedly that ‘knowledge is power,’ I remind myself that much of what I read — especially about recurrence and survival — does not pertain to me.

“I refuse to let it pertain to me. I see myself as a survivor and thriver and, if the cancer comes back, I will fight it again,” King said. “God willing, I will survive again.”

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