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Deb Jordan had just moved to Utah and started a job at ARUP Blood Services when she composed an email to Don Milligan, MBA, executive director of Huntsman Cancer Institute’s cancer hospital. She asked if there were any volunteer opportunities for her to participate in but because of the COVID pandemic, there were none at the time. However, her next email to Milligan just a couple months later had a different tone.
“I was 55 years old and needed a check-up so I reached out to a friend to recommend an OBGYN because I was new to Utah,” Deb says. “I had already been through menopause and after a biopsy, the doctor recommended I get a hysterectomy. That’s when they found the cancer cells.”
Deb was diagnosed with stage 3 endometrial cancer, meaning the cancer cells had moved to lymph nodes in her abdomen.
“My journey is a little bit different because it happened during COVID and it was super lonely,” says Deb. “My sister flew out for my first chemotherapy appointment, but couldn’t come with me since there weren’t any visitors allowed in the hospital. You hear these sweet stories of people knitting with their sisters during chemotherapy or having their husbands there and I wasn’t able to do that.”
When Deb showed up to her first chemotherapy appointment, she had a surprise visitor. “Don was waiting for me in the transfusion bay. He’s such a busy man, but he took the time to make sure I was comfortable even though we didn’t even know each other before that first email. Also, I was so grateful to have ARUP Blood Services’ medical director, Robert Blaylock, MD, find me at each of my appointments and check in on me.”
After treatment, Deb began to feel better and was ready to get back to volunteering. She asked her oncologist, Theresa Werner, MD, to put her to work. That’s when she applied to join the Breast and Gynecologic Cancers Research Advocacy Group.
“We are a group of women who have had breast or gynecological cancers,” says Deb. “We meet once a month to talk with researchers, listen to lectures and guest speakers, and write support letters for research grant applications from a patient point of view.”
Deb and her comrades advocate for people with breast or gynecologic cancer. “Being able to hear about the ongoing research puts my mind at ease,” she says. “As a gynecologic cancer survivor, I get to learn more about my cancer and what they’re doing to cure it. We get so much information and then we get to tell our friends, family, or shout it from the rooftops that we have cutting edge research going on right here in Salt Lake City!”
Deb is currently in remission and now that cancer is the rear-view mirror, she continues to support others through her efforts.