“Part of my journey was me learning and becoming my own advocate, which was very empowering.” - Jeanine Patten-Coble
Before being diagnosed with breast cancer, Jeanine Patten-Coble was a self proclaimed, “Type A, working woman”, who had just started a side consulting business to help develop teachers as leaders. She had been a teacher and then an educational consultant for 15 years, and wanted to help other educators to be successful.
MK: What do you wish you'd know before being diagnosed with breast cancer?
JPC: Honestly, I am happy that I new very little. I know that might sound strange, but once diagnosed, there is a whole new vocabulary and language that you are forced to learn. I think that if I had been more educated that it might have caused me to overthink all aspects of the journey.
MK: Do you ever wish you could go back to life as if was before breast cancer?
JPC: Yes and no. Yes, I wish I could go back because then looking forward, I would not be worried about the next scan or test and the idea that a recurrence might happen. No, and a big no, because the diagnosis changed the total trajectory of my life.
MK: How has this experience awakened you to your purpose?
JPC: Life is now something that I do not take for granted. I tell people all the time that I now have a front row seat to the goodness in the world- but really, it is probably just that my eyes are wide open to it in a way that they never were prior to my diagnosis.
MK: Tell me about your advocacy work.
JCP: I am the founder of Little Pink Houses of Hope. Our organization provides free week long vacations for breast cancer patients and their families, but more importantly, we provide a network of support for the family. Attendees will comment that they came as strangers to a retreat week and left as family.
MK: What word do you wish you could take out of the breast cancer vocabulary?
JCP: Widow(er). I live in a world where weekly, I have people that have came through our program and passed away. It is devastating to think of the husbands/spouses and kids that are left behind without their parent.
MK: If there was one thing you could change about breast cancer and how people view it, what would that be?
JCP: The notion that how you look is an indicator or how you feel. For so many years, the movies and other mediums have painted a picture of the "sick" cancer patient. I find that there are so many people living a Stage IV diagnosis but do not look like the dying cancer patient and that does not make it easy to care for themselves.
MK: Why is it so important to you to support other somen affected by breast cancer?
JCP: It is important for me not just to support women, BUT ALSO men! This is the one of the most un-adressed aspects of this disease - that it only affects women.
MK: What would you tell a newly diagnosed young woman?
JCP: My first piece of advice is that there are two trains that leave the station when you are diagnosed. On the first train, every stop is a treatment, dr. appointment, test, etc. The second trai contains stops that are about a school play, Halloween party, trip overseas, etc. Pick your train and choose wisely. Don't let your life become a journey that is solely about your cancer. You are way more than that!
MK: Has cancer changed how you see adversity?
JCP: It has made me accept that adversity is a way in which we each get an opportunity to grow. It might be incredibly hard, but if we have faith that our healing is not just about our physical bodies but our complete selves, we have the ability to write an amazing chapter.
MK: What one word defines you?
JCP: Ridiculously present.
MK: How has your journey helped you to find your soul purpose?
JCP: Without my cancer diagnosis, I would never have been able to see that my purpose was in caring for others. I was a person who was walking through the motions of her life. I am now a person that creates joy in abundance!