Jill Eikenberry speaks about her cancer experience in 1986
We have been speaking around the country for about 20 years about our breast cancer experience in 1986. When I was diagnosed I didn’t know anyone who had survived breast cancer. I thought for sure it was a death sentence. It happened right after we had shot the pilot for “LA Law”. It was a very bizarre time. As we often say, we were dealing with
mortality and immortality at the same time. We have given our talk at openings of new cancer centers. at gatherings of cancer survivors, at conferences for oncology nurses and OR nurses, at corporate conferences and even onboard cruise ships. We get a lot out of doing it, because we come in contact with people who are dealing with the same issues that we’ve dealt with. And because we’re reminded every time to treasure the years that we’ve been given. When we speak to survivors it’s often a room full of women. Inevitably someone will come up to us after the talk and say “I wish I’d brought my husband. He’s so hard to talk to right now and I wish he’d heard what Mike has to say about being the partner of a breast cancer patient. “ Our favorite part of the hour is the Q and A after the talk. Sometimes we get a chance to hook people up in the audience. For example if a woman is worried about how to talk to her children, there might be someone else there who knows about a support group for kids. It can be very exciting.
In 2009 I was diagnosed with a recurrence. Twenty-three years later. It was a very tiny tumor in the exact same spot. It was scary as hell but very different from the last time. The treatment of breast cancer has changed dramatically in 23 years. It feels like 1986 was the Dark Ages. Despite the fact that we still don’t have a cure, the medical profession has learned a lot about the emotional and psychological aspects of the disease. And that’s because so many of us are out there talking about
it. So our speech has a new ending. We just gave 2 of our talks in the spring to OR nurses and they really appreciated that. – Jill.
Michael Tucker speaks about his experience with Jill’s mother who has been diagnosed with dementia
We’ve also been speaking around the country to Alzheimer’s groups, Senior Living Centers and Community groups in conjunction with our latest book, “Family Meals”. The book tells the story of our experience when Jill’s mom was widowed and then diagnosed with severe dementia. Eventually we moved her across the country to be near us in New York and, eventually, to an apartment across the hall.
We talk about serious issues, such as Jill’s denial about her mother’s condition and the difficulty of finding the right people to help us. We focus on how stressful a situation like this can be on a relationship. But we also talk about the unexpected benefits that came to us out of this difficult situation. Our family has come together around this crisis – both geographically and emotionally. Jill’s relationship with her mother – although vastly changed – is affording both of them an intimacy that they never had before.
Our primary message in this talk is that when faced with the choice of taking care of an aging parent or living one’s own life, the answer that we found is that you can and must do both. – Mike
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