Breast cancer survivor becomes face of new fundraising campaign
Monique Cohen was a healthy, busy mom of three when, in early
2011, she noticed a lump during a breast self-exam. A lumpectomy
revealed it was benign, but a follow-up mammogram six months later found another
“‘You have cancer.’ Those are the three worst words you’ll
ever hear in your life,” she says. “The first question you ask is, ‘Why?’ I did
everything I possibly could to stay healthy. I exercised regularly. It was not
in my genetics. But the fact was that I had cancer and we needed to do what was
necessary to eradicate it.”
A neighbor told Monique to make an appointment at MD
Anderson, a suggestion echoed by colleagues of her husband, Jamie.
“It’s the best care in the nation for cancer,
and it’s in our backyard,” says the Austin, Texas resident. “When you’re faced
with a diagnosis as serious as cancer, why wouldn’t you go to the best?”
“The hardest thing you ever have to
do as a parent is to tell your children something like this,” Monique says.”You know it’s going to be difficult for them and they’re going to be scared,
and as a parent and a mom, you’re not supposed to do that to your kids. You’re
supposed to protect them.”
After initial tears, the family decided to approach Monique’s
breast cancer with positivity and humor.
“I said we were going to joke about
it, because that’s what we’ve always done, and we are going to remain positive
through this whole thing,” Jamie says. “And that’s what got us through the
Place of hope
The Cohens were scared and stressed when they arrived at MD Anderson.
“But once I met my team of doctors and they all knew me,
they knew my diagnosis, they knew the type of breast cancer I had … things
quickly were set into motion to get rid of this,” Monique says. “The sense of
optimism and hope immediately put me at ease.”
Jamie agrees, comparing MD Anderson to a beehive. “You’re in
this system with these caring hands, and they pass you along to the next person,”
he says. “The anxiety just left, and there was this calming feeling.”
Monique’s breast cancer treatment included six months of chemotherapy,
followed by six weeks of radiation.
Her MD Anderson oncologists collaborated with her local physician, so she could
receive treatment close to her Austin home.
One year later, Monique is cancer-free.
“I knew that it’d be a tough road, but there was never a doubt
in my mind that I was going to get through this with the support and strength
of my family, friends and everyone around me,” Monique says.
Coming full circle
Wanting to make sense of his family’s cancer experience and help others
facing similar journeys, Jamie has worked with his employer, Jason’s Deli, to rally
its support for MD Anderson’s efforts to end cancer. He says the compassion the
company showed his family during his wife’s diagnosis and treatment was
incredible and rare.
Throughout the next year, Jason’s Deli will donate 10 cents
to cancer research from every specially marked water bottle it sells. The
Cohens’ photo appears on water bottles being sold now through December 2013.
“We’ve had many long-term employees who have been touched by
cancer,” Jamie says. “We want to do more to help the communities that we serve.
We want to raise awareness about cancer and to help MD Anderson so other people
don’t have to experience what we’ve gone through.”
A new appreciation
The Cohens consider this effort to raise cancer research funds to be among
the gifts that resulted from Monique’s breast cancer diagnosis.
“When I was
first diagnosed, friends told me that there would be blessings from this, and I
thought they were absolutely crazy,” she says.
“But they were absolutely correct. I’ve met people who I
wouldn’t have had contact with. I’ve discovered the strengths of my family and
my friends and the people around me who are compassionate and want to do
whatever they can to make my life easier.”
“I appreciate life more; I appreciate my family more. And I
just want to live bigger now.”
For more information
about Jason’s Deli’s support of MD Anderson’s fight to end cancer, visit http://www.jasonsdeli.com/strike-through-cancer.
Photo by Suzel Roth