Nineteen year breast cancer survivor shares journey
Sep 30, 2013 | 1654 views | 0 0 comments | 45 45 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jan Mayard
Jan Mayard
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This is the first of a two part series for

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

KAPLAN - Cancer, no matter what form, is a life changing diagnosis. Thankfully, due in part to medical advancements, it isn’t necessarily a death sentence as Kaplan resident Jan S. Mayard can attest to. She is a 19 year breast cancer survivor, and is willing to share her journey.

In early 1992, Jan was living a normal life. She was married, with two young daughters, and happy in her career as the vice president of a local bank. Since she was only 32-years-old, mammograms were not a part of her normal wellness checkups.

However, having a mother who battled and survived breast cancer, Mayard knew the importance of self exams. It was during one of these exams, in March of ’92, that Jan discovered a lump in her right breast.

Following a lumpectomy, Mayard underwent chemotherapy and radiation. The cancer had not reached her lymph nodes, so the battle was short and normalcy quickly resumed.

However, in March of 1994, just two years later, Jan discovered lumps in both breasts. The cancer had returned, and this time it was aggressive. She required a complete mastectomy and underwent full radiation and chemo.

It was Dr. Stagg in Baton Rouge who suggested a risky procedure called peripheral stem cell transplant, which is a type of bone marrow transplant using the patient’s own cells. She was told that without action, the cancer would continue returning, each time more uncompromisingly.

“The risk for this was either be cured or not make it, because of all the harsh medication. I remember looking at my husband, Larry, and we both said, ‘Let’s do it,’ and so our journey started.”

To prepare for the transplant, Jan underwent several procedures. Her stem cells had to be harvested, and she was affixed with a Hickman, which is a type of catheter consisting of three wires.

Since no one in the area knew how to flush this type of port, her neighbor Steve Schexnider volunteered to assist. A nurse talked him through it, via phone, and he helped Jan everyday for a month.

When the time came, Jan and Larry traveled to Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge. Their two daughters Heather and Jayde, then aged 14 and 4 respectively, remained in Kaplan under the care of grandparents.

Mayard was put in a room with a private nurse, and her husband was allowed to remain with her. After the bone marrow transplant, where she also received eight pints of blood and three pints of platelets donated by friends and close family, Jan was allowed visitors, but she could not receive food or even flowers from the outside world due to risk of infection because of a lowered immune system.

Being confined to the hospital for an entire month, the days were long and hard because she remained in bed most of the time. Her coworkers sent letters and cards every day, and Mayard looked forward to receiving them.

There is much of that time she doesn’t remember. After the ordeal Larry sat her down and helped fill in the missing gaps.

Despite the fact that Mayard’s transplanted stem cells were her own, there was still a chance her body would reject them.

Thankfully, her healthy cell count began to climb and soon she was released from the hospital. She remained with family in Baton Rouge for a couple of weeks, in order to have daily blood work drawn.

Finally, after being away from her daughters for nearly seven weeks, the patient was permitted to return home. She was still susceptible to infection and wore a face mask when out in public. Even so, after a few months Mayard returned to work, still wearing a wig, and before her eyelashes and eyebrows had a chance to grow back. She remained inside her office, doing paperwork, and wasn’t able to interact with customers.

Looking back on her journey, she recalls the intense nausea being her worst physical pain. Emotionally, the separation from her young children was the most difficult. Losing her hair was not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, although she can remember both her and her hair dresser crying when the decision came to shave it all off.

The double mastectomy was harder, and she waited almost four years before having a reconstructive procedure called a Tram Flap where fatty tissue and skin from her stomach was graphed onto her chest. The operation was even more painful than the mastectomy, but this was opted for over implants because she didn’t want any foreign material introduced into her body.

Getting the insurance to cover her medical needs was also a hurdle the Mayard family faced. The request for benefits was initially denied.

But her employer helped her figh the battle. The president of the bank was relentless in his pursuit of insurance carriers until coverage was finally approved. Thereafter, Jan was blessed to have the insurance cover all her medical bills.

Without her persistent faith in God and the unwavering support of her husband, family, friends, coworkers, doctors, and community, Mayard’s story could very well have had a different ending. She recalls, “My family was my reason to fight.”

After reaching the five year mark, Jan finally began to breathe a little easier. And now, 19 years after her journey began, she no longer allows herself to worry. She still struggles with pain under her arms, from where her lymph nodes were removed, but she does not allow that to slow her down. Now retired, after working for 32 years, she enjoys time spent with grandchildren and her best friend, Larry.

As a breast cancer survivor, she encourages all women to conduct self exams, especially since she is living proof that they do work. “God has truly blessed my family.Cancer did not win this battle – I did, twice!”

Jan is the daughter of Chick and Genny Schexnider. She grew up in Kaplan, and graduated from KHS in 1977. Married to Larry, the Mayards have two daughters. Heather is married to Chip Perrin, and the couple have two children Lily Grace and Dax. The Mayard’s youngest daughter, Jayde, still lives at home. She has a special friend, Josh, and is currently attending college.
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