Leachville survivor lives one day at a time

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

(Editor's note: This is the third of a series of stories featuring cancer survivors throughout the Buffalo Island area. It is an effort to help cancer victims know what to expect and encourage them and their families to look for better days ahead.)

Jewell Rolland of Leachville with her dog, Betsy.

Jewell Rolland of Leachville is a cancer survivor not once, but twice. She was just getting over treatments from colon cancer when her doctors discovered she had ovarian cancer.

It has been a little over eight years since she first discovered she had cancer.

"I was not feeling just right," she said. "In June 2000 I notice a change in my bowel habits. I had been to the doctor and had a colonoscopy scheduled for July 9. On June 29 I was having severe pain and my food would not stay down. I was admitted to St. Bernards that same night and they started testing. On Sunday morning my doctor came in to see me and told me he was 99 percent sure I had colon cancer. I was operated on July 4, 2000. They removed three feet of my colon and 10 lymph nodes. Four lymph nodes tested positive for cancer."

She remained in the hospital for seven more days. Her oncologist told her she had a 35 percent survival chance without chemotherapy and 55 percent with treatments.

"When talking about survival the additional 20 percent sounded like a lot," she said.

Rolland underwent six months of chemotherapy taking treatments every three weeks.

"There was one week I could not take chemotherapy because my blood count was not right," she said. "Chemo destroys cancer cells but it also destroys the good cells in your body. My worst experience with chemo was mouth sores and weakness."

She completed her treatments in January 2001.

Mrs. Rolland said she attended services at her home church, Second Baptist Church, and the pastor, Dewayne Smith, was preaching from Matthew 9 about the lady who had an issue of blood for 12 years.

"I had a warm feeling all over my body and I believe God healed me of colon cancer that morning," she said. "I don't believe I'll ever have colon cancer again."

Mrs. Rolland was able to work most of the time during her ordeal. At the time she was serving as Food Service Director at Buffalo Island Central School.

She has worked in the school food service department for 32 years. She still works a day or two a week when she is needed. She keeps her food service director certification updated and still enjoys her job.

A second diagnosis came in April 2001.

"I started gaining weight at the rate of one pound a day," Rolland said. "My oncologist set me up with a gynecologist. He knew right off I had ovarian cancer. The blood work indicated I also had colon cancer again. That was the only time I cried through the whole ordeal."

On May 2 she had a 15 pound tumor removed.

"It was enclosed in some type of bubble or bag that stayed intact during the surgery," she said. "While I was in surgery, my cancer doctor was also in the operating room. He checked my colon inch by inch and found no cancer. I believe that was God's healing."

Rolland once again had to make the decision on chemotherapy. This time she was told she had an 80 percent survival rate and chemotherapy would improve it less than five percent.

She did not undergo chemotherapy for the ovarian cancer. She has been doing well ever since. At first she saw her cancer doctor every three months, then six months and now it is annually. She has her blood work on both cancers done yearly and has regular mammograms.

"My doctors call me a miracle," she said. "I had wonderful doctors but I also had the Great Physician in my life. I had many people praying for me. My daughter, Tammy Spikes, asked everyone she met to pray for me. She didn't care if she knew them or not. My church family kept me in their prayers and helped my family in many ways.

"My prayer was to let me outlive my mother. My prayer was answered. She lived to be almost 99. She passed away in June 2007. Through the whole experience I knew I was going to be all right because I knew if God spared my life, I would live for him and if he took it, I would live with him. Either way, I was a winner."

"Cancer affects people's lives in different ways and it is a dreadful disease," Mrs. Rolland said. "I have lost a lot of friends to cancer. One of my cooks, Pat Hembrey, lost her battle with breast cancer about four years ago. Several of my friends and co-workers at school have had their battle with colon and other types of cancer. I lost my sister to lung cancer in June 2002. She had melanoma skin cancer years ago. It is especially difficult to see children suffer with cancer. Cancer is no respecter of age."

Mrs. Rolland advises people to get regular check-ups and not wait if they suspect they have a problem.

"I don't worry the least about my cancer coming back," she said. "The least you can worry, the better off you are. I live from day to day. I put myself in the hands of the Lord. I love life, love people and I want to stay around as long as I can to help people. We have more and better treatments today than ever before. There is more and more research being done."

Rolland said she had wonderful family support from her husband, Jim, and her children, Tammy Spikes and Jimmy Rolland, Jr., as well as her church family and co-workers.

"My doctors advised my siblings and my children to have a colonoscopy when they reached 40 years old," she said.

Mrs. Rolland's brothers are William Piercy of Monette, Gaylon Piercy of Lake City and Laymon Piercy of West Helena.

"Cancer has made me a better person," she said. "It gave me a deeper understanding of what is important in life. I learned the petty things don't amount to a hill of beans. I enjoy life every day. I love life, I love people and I want to stay around as long as I can help people."

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