By MARY STARR
There is never a good time to hear the phrase, “you have cancer,” but to a young person, who may still be raising a family and working full time, the challenges can seem insurmountable.
Women in the U.S. have a 1 in 8 chance of receiving a breast cancer diagnosis sometime in their lives. Generally, those diagnoses are post-menopausal. For some women, however, the diagnosis arrives at the busiest time of their lives.
Buffy Jobe is one such woman. A single mom of two children, Jobe was diagnosed with bilateral (both breasts) breast cancer in April following her annual exam.
After having a double mastectomy in June, the reconstructive process began.
“I feel really good about the healing from the mastectomy,” she said. “It was a very painful experience; it felt at times likes someone took an excavator to my chest.”
Fortunately, Jobe did not have to convalesce alone. Her mother, who retired in May, was able to come to the Golden Isles and spend an entire month with her daughter.
Jobe returned to her job this fall teaching seventh grade at Glynn Middle, where she has taught since 1995.
“I have developed many rich relationships with my co-workers, students and their families,” she said. “For the past few years I have been teaching some kids whose parents I taught at the old Glynn Middle on George Street.”
Jobe gathered her people around her and mounted an attack against the cancer that had invaded her body. Mental, physical and emotional wellness and health prior to surgery was her goal so she could be in top shape to handle her recovery. She traveled to her favorite places, and most importantly, spent time with friends, and in the gym, took advantage of counseling and drew closer to God along the way.
“Frequent interactions with dear friends was crucial for my spiritual and emotional health,” she said. “I never lacked encouragement.”
She also made sure her two children (one in high school, and another in middle school) had plenty of summer activities to keep them busy.
“I didn’t want them to have to slow down because of my recovery,” Jobe said.
Her circle of friends and family was the source of her strength. Beginning with her mom, her church family from Family Life Church and colleagues and friends from Glynn County Schools. Friends brought food, accompanied her to appointments, and made sure she got to spend time away to relax and recharge.
“I have drawn strength from the people who love me and have maintained a joy, optimism and faith that only comes from knowing and trusting God,” Jobe said. “God has surely worked through many people who have shown His love through their words and actions.”
It was actually a member of that circle of friends who encouraged Jobe to model for the upcoming American Cancer Society Breast Cancer Fashion Show and Luncheon set for Oct. 20 at Sea Palms on St. Simons
Rhonda Barlow, who coordinates the models for the fashion show, is a long-time friend of Jobe’s.
“She and I were on the same staff at Glynn Middle in the late 90s, so she heard about my experience through the grapevine,” Jobe explained. “The invite made me feel like a princess in the midst of a lot of emotional and physical pain. … Having things to look forward to has been very good for my recovery, body and soul.”
Jobe is the youngest model in the fashion show, but she says sometimes she doesn’t feel so young.
“After teaching middle school for 24 years, I don’t always feel so ‘young,” she said. “Sometimes I feel haggard, but this journey has empowered me in a sense that will serve me from here on. I am motivated to have more fun, and enjoy life on a deeper level.”
Jodi Waters will not be modeling in this year’s fashion show because of a previous commitment, but her husband, Mason Waters, who has emceed the event for years, will be back in his usual role.
Waters received her diagnosis in October 2017, after having a clear mammogram the year before.
“Sometime over the summer of 2017, I felt a lump — probably around late June or early July,” she said. “I finally went in to see my nurse practitioner in August, and she ordered the mammogram which showed a lump. So, my cancer appeared and grew in a very short period of time. I was formally diagnosed in late October of 2017 with stage 1, triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma.”
After the diagnosis, Waters underwent a lumpectomy, and subsequently 16 rounds of chemotherapy and 20 rounds of radiation. The chemo ended in April, and the radiation in June, and Waters is no longer in treatment.
After working as a speech pathologist for many years, Waters is a registered nurse, with a career and an active, young family.
“I can honestly say that I was naive when I was first diagnosed. We so often hear about people getting cancer and going through chemotherapy now that I really thought it wouldn’t be that bad. Well ... it was that bad. Ugh. It was awful. Mason and my kids were just amazing through the whole ordeal even though they were dealing with the stress and worry that something may happen to me, and it was hard for them to see me lose my hair and feel so bad for so many months.”
Waters was able to work through most of the chemo, but finally took a medical leave for the three final months.
For Waters, the worst part of her illness was the isolation.
“There were weeks when I didn’t go out of the house because I looked and felt so bad, so it was very helpful to have people come visit and sit with me during the day and keep me company when Mason and the kids were gone, and I am so very grateful to those friends who took time out of their schedules each week to do that,” she said. “I also had a support network bringing our family meals three times a week for the duration of my chemotherapy and had several friends who drove me to and from chemotherapy — all the way to Mayo in Jacksonville. Without them, I would not have made it.”
Waters said she was shocked to receive her diagnosis.
“I really didn’t expect to even have to be worried about the possibility of breast cancer until much later in life,” she said.
Tickets to the ACS Breast Cancer Fashion Show and Luncheon may be purchased through Oct. 16 at Gentlemen’s and Lady Outfitters in the Shops at Sea Island and Antiques, Etc., in downtown Brunswick, or call 912-217-7280.