“The thirty radiation sessions were not without their difficulties but the doctor and staff supported me through them all.”
Jane Klingensmith, Survivor of Parotid Cancer
“Jane Klingensmith pauses for a long time when asked about her cancer journey and says, “Where do I begin…?”
Let’s start with how Jane and her husband, James Franklin Klingensmith, playfully known as J.F.K., are joyfully planning their 55 year wedding anniversary on November 20, 2011. Jane and Jim first met while Jim was serving in the US Air Force. Some of his duties were as a flight engineer flying Boeing B-29 Superfortresses and EC-121 radar constellations. Jim’s bravery not only served our country for 20 years, but later helped Jane as she faced her battle with cancer.
And so begins Jane’s recollection of remarkable ‘coincidences’…
“I’d been putting off going to the dentist,” she recalls. “Finally, I just made an appointment. I don’t know what made me decide all of a sudden to just go.” It had been six years.
It was at this long overdue appointment that Theresa, the dental hygienist, noticed a knot near Jane’s jawline and asked her what it was. “I told her it was just a lymph node or a cyst,” Jane says. Jane forgot about it.
But, it just so happened that she had an appointment already scheduled for a checkup with her dermatologist. She noticed the “cyst”, too. “She immediately got me an appointment for that day with my primary care doctor”.
After a round of antibiotics, Jane’s doctor decided it was time for her to see an ENT specialist. A CT scan and fine needle biopsy revealed a benign, “Warthin’s” tumor. “I’d already done my homework,” Jane laughs. “I knew that even though it was benign, the only way to solve it was surgery. So it was scheduled as an out-patient procedure. Remember, the surgeon was removing a benign tumor!”.
“When surgery was over I had a bunch of stitches around my ear and one large bandage on my neck. There was some discomfort but not any severe pain…certainly nothing that Tylenol didn’t take care of. I was then informed there were not one but two tumors and the “hidden one” was tangled in some nerves. Uh-oh..to me that didn’t sound too cool.”
Hiding behind the benign tumor – hiding from Jane, from the dental hygienist, from the dermatologist, primary care physician, and the ENT specialist – was a rare, malignant, acinic cell carcinoma of the right parotid gland. It was discovered during the surgery. “If I hadn’t gone to the dentist…if the hygienist hadn’t noticed it…if my doctor hadn’t sent me to an ENT specialist…” Jane pauses as the series of coincidences sinks in again.
“I had people praying for me from Maryland to Indiana, Ohio to Texas, to North Florida and parts in between. And my husband, Jim, was a rock through it all.” She adds “I have great faith that the Lord has all things in His control so I didn’t panic but I must admit that I did shed a few tears. Thankfully, He understands all my fears, questions, and all the rest of my emotions.”
The next stop for Jane was one she liked even less than the diagnosis – a big medical facility that was a two hour drive away from her home. “I just couldn’t go there every day for six weeks,” Jane says. ”A two hour drive every day…and back again.”
She was thrilled when they referred her to Sebring Cancer Center. “The people were so kind and comforting, so helpful with scheduling everything,” she says of the Center. “Stephanie was always gentle, knowledgeable and reassuring. The thirty radiation sessions were not without their difficulties but the doctor and staff supported me through them all.”
She recalls how radiation effected her taste buds. “For about six to eight weeks, my taste buds just didn’t work. Food either tasted horrible or had no taste. Eating became a real chore. Thankfully by mid summer much of my taste had returned and once again I could enjoy the taste of food – which until then I had really taken for granted.”
Asked if she had anything she would say to our readers, Jane says, “Listen to the Lord. Listen to your doctors and your dental hygienist.” She adds that keeping up with regular screenings is more important than she had realized.
“When you’re told you have the Big C, it’s a scary feeling,” Jane says. “But God is good. I feel so blessed because my cancer was self-contained. They got it all. The radiation treatments took care of any possible stray cancer cells. To me, that peace of mind is well worth all the side effects!”
Jane’s story, happily, does not end here. Today, Jane is back volunteering in her community through her work at the Parkway Free Will Baptist Church & Food Ministries – cancer free. Donations to the Food Bank are welcome and appreciated. 3413 Sebring Parkway, Sebring, FL, 863-382-3552