A Surprise Ending
In 1995 Brendan Price, the gymnast turned coach, could not believe his ears, "You have an incurable cancer." The lump in his groin was non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
When Brendan met Jana Carrington the following year, he had just completed six months of aggressive chemotherapy and was suffering from the painful side effects of interferon, a drug to reduce the spread of tumors and boost the immune system. "I was hairless, emaciated, pale and drowning in medical debt. I knew she loved me," he says with a smile. They married in November 1998 and he enjoyed several years of remission.
With renewed purpose, Brendan got in shape for an audition at Disney and was flattered when he received the acrobat position. When Brendan went to MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando for a routine check-up, his CT scan revealed that the cancer had returned. He again underwent six months of chemotherapy, but his time the chemo proved less effective.
Within three months, Brendan's scans revealed a tumor in his liver, another relapse of the cancer. The surgeon had to remove a third of his liver to remove the tumor. At the teleconference with MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando Houston, the team of physicians decided Brendan was eligible for a bone marrow transplant.
Jana and Brendan knew that not everyone survives a bone marrow transplant (BMT). The reality added even additional stress. The couple went to Houston for the bone marrow transplant during the summer of 2002. The physicians harvested Brendan's bone marrow and after intense total body irradiation, returned the marrow to his body. Weeks after the successful completion of the transplant, he sat in the lobby in a wheel chair, elated to have survived.
The couple returned to Orlando, but shortly afterwards, Brendan spiked a fever of 105 degrees. "For five weeks we didn't know its cause," Jana remembers. Just when Brendan began to improve and regain his strength from aspergillosis, Jana received shocking news herself. "We need to perform a biopsy. Your mammogram looks suspicious." She called Brendan from the parking lot crying. What would they find? The biopsy revealed she had infiltrating lobular breast cancer. How could we both have cancer? she asked herself.
As Jana tried to muster her strength to battle her own illness she realized just how exhausted she was. "By divine intervention" she met the team at the Mind Body Medicine Center (formerly Mind/Body/Spirit) at MD Anderson - Orlando. "They helped me with the spiritual piece I needed to get through my treatment," she says.
Jana had an allergic reaction to the initial chemotherapy treatment that left her feeling ill and anxious about resuming treatment. The Mind Body Medicine Center help her reprogram her negative feelings and taught her coping mechanisms she needed to guide her through treatment. "The staff understood battling cancer from the patient's perspective. I felt like I could relax and enjoy the experience," she says.
Jana has learned invaluable lessons from her experience as a caregiver and then a patient herself. After concluding her successful treatment, she wrote A Touch of Hope - A Caregivers Survival Guide. "The book guides caregivers in the simple art of self-care encouraging conscious relaxation, health and rest. The best way to care for your loved one is not to neglect yourself," she shares.
Brendan and Jana are both living with 'incurable cancer' thanks to MD Anderson - Orlando. "We are grateful to have a story to tell that can help someone else lose fear and gain hope."