Jean Thompkins works in the admissions department at Gulf Coast Medical Center, but not very long ago she became the patient.
Jean Thompkins said, "I still remember the day I got the call. This is what we found. I really thought there was something there.”
That's the day Jean found out she had ovarian cancer.
"There were no tears. It was just a very surreal moment. It has to sink in. You really have to process it for a while to really understand this is what I have."
Jean had an advantage over many other cancer patients. She has a medical background.
“Being from the medical side of it, knowing what the process was going to be, what was going to happen, I think helped some. Also, I guess the other part of it was knowing that now there are a lot of treatments. It's not just that you're going to be diagnosed with cancer and there's nothing there for you."
The tumor was so large that Jean's local oncologist refereed her to UAB in Birmingham. She was out of work for a while. When she returned, Jean found out her close friend and co-worker, whose office is just across the hall, had also been diagnosed with cancer.
Linda Bray, a financial counselor, said, “I had no idea I had anything wrong with me. I came into the emergency room thinking I had pleurisy because I had this terrific pain in my side. They took some x-rays and found out I had a mass in my lung.”
Doctors couldn't operate because of the size of the mass and its location. They sent Linda to Houston's M.D. Anderson.
“You don't really have time to think, you are in shock because I had no idea I was sick, not with cancer. I think I was functioning on remote control. I knew I had to see about this, I knew I had to do something. I was going to get well, I wanted to get well and I would do anything."
Linda has been through 34 treatments of radiation, sometimes coupled with chemotherapy. Because of their similar fight for survival, these friends are now closer than ever and have even found a way to laugh about it.
“There are some positives to having chemo and radiation that you don't think about. Your hair will fall out, but when it comes back it may come back in color, sometimes it's thicker. It's prettier than the hair you started out with. Your eyelashes grow. It clears up your skin.”
While they've kept their sense of humor, they do realize the seriousness of paying attention to what your body is telling you.
“If you think there is something unusual going on with your body, don't wait. Get to the doctor as quickly as possible.”
Jean just wrapped up her last chemotherapy treatment. Linda has been declared cancer free.