||Almost a Princess:
||My Life as a Two-Time Cancer Survivor
|Jane Loeb Rubin
NATIONWIDE CANCER STUDY ENLISTS SUPPORT
FROM NORTHWEST NEW JERSEY AREA RESIDENTS
American Cancer Society, Atlantic Health System, Realogy Corporation and YMCAs are looking for residents interested in fighting back against cancer
WHAT: The American Cancer Society, Atlantic Health System, Realogy Corporation and The Greater Morristown and Madison Area YMCAs are seeking cancer fighters in the Northwest New Jersey area who are interested in helping to spread the word about the importance of participating in Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3), a historic nationwide study to help researchers better understand the genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that cause or prevent cancer. At the kick off, participants will receive all the information they need to educate community members about the study and how they can make an appointment to enroll during the month of December.
Brian Slomovitz, MD, Medical Director, oncology research, Atlantic Health System
Robin Albers, Regional Vice President, American Cancer Society
David Weaving, Executive Vice President, Realogy Corporation
Rep. Rodney P. Frelinghuysen (R-NJ 11th District)
Sue Bowens, Director of Marketing, Greater Morristown YMCA
Robert Conley, Mayor of Madison and Vice President of Operations, Madison Area YMCA
Francine Saliter, breast cancer survivor
Jane Rubin, breast and ovarian cancer survivor, and author of, “Almost a Princess.”
WHEN: Tuesday, October 2, 2012, 11:00 am
WHERE: Morristown Medical Center Brady Shinn Board Room, B Level 100 Madison Avenue, Morristown, NJ 07960
BACKGROUND ON THE STUDY:
• To better understand the lifestyle, environmental, and genetic factors that cause or prevent cancer, the American Cancer Society’s Department of Epidemiology & Surveillance Research is recruiting 300,000 adults across the U.S. and Puerto Rico for a new research study, the Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3).
• Men and women who are willing to commit to the study must be between the ages of 30 and 65 and never have been diagnosed with cancer. To enroll, individuals provide a waist measurement, give a small blood sample and complete and complete a baseline and enrollment survey. Over the course of the study, participants will be asked to fill out follow-up surveys every few years for the next 20-30 years.
• While the American Cancer Society has been conducting these types of studies for decades, their world-class research department can only study new and emerging cancer risks if members of the community are willing to become involved.
• For more information on CPS-3 enrollments www.cps3northwestnj.org
MEMOIRS (Overcoming Adversity/Tragedy/Challenges)
WINNER ($100 PRIZE):
- The Polio Journals: Lessons from My Mother, by Anne K. Gross (Diversity Matters Press) (ISBN 978-0578065915)
- Almost a Princess, My Life as a Two-Time Cancer Survivor, by Jane Loeb Rubin (iUniverse) (ISBN 978-1936236831)
- Bad Dad, by Dave Lieber (Yankee Cowboy Publishing) (ISBN 978-0970853097)
- How I Lost My Uterus and Found My Voice: A Memoir of Love, Hope, and Empowerment, by Michelle L. Whitlock (iUniverse) (ISBN 978-1462070572)
- The Red Skirt: Memoirs of an Ex Nun, by Patricia O'Donnell-Gibson (StuartRose Publishing, LLC) (ISBN 978-0983611202)
Overlook View, October, 2011
Cancer has a way of sneaking up on people and catching them off-guard. There's no consideration for the things you haven't yet done or the things you're about to do. The moment you receive a cancer diagnosis—the day that you're not just a person but a patient—the tasks on your to-do list, the plans in your datebook, and the long-term goals that motivate you are suddenly put on hold. This is true even if you're someone like Atlantic Health System's Director of Neuroscience, Jane Rubin—the type of person who, quite simply, just gets things done.
In September 1999, Rubin, at the time an administrator at another hospital in the area, was a fortysomething single mom engaged to marry the man she refers to as the love of her life. One morning, as she was getting ready to visit her daughter at college, she detected a lump in her left breast. Weeks earlier she had had a mammogram that revealed nothing of concern. "My annual screening looked fine. Nothing popped up on my radar that I should have further diagnostics, and I went on with my life," she says. But here she was, alone in her bathroom, and that pea-size lump was setting off all kinds of alarms in her head.
Subsequent imaging and a biopsy shortly thereafter confirmed the presence of a malignant tumor one centimeter in diameter, much like the eraser at the end of a pencil. When Rubin's oncologist at Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown Medical Center looked closely at Rubin's family history, he saw that two of her cousins had had ovarian cancer. He ordered a blood test to detect BRCA1, a genetic mutation that leaves women vulnerable not only to breast cancer but to ovarian cancer as well. When Rubin tested positive for BRCA1, she decided on an aggressive treatment plan: a bilateral mastectomy and complete hysterectomy, then chemotherapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells. "I did what I had to do and then moved on with my life," Rubin says. "You can imagine how I thought I would be out of the woods."
An Old Foe With a New Face
Fast-forward ten years to 2009, and Rubin, by now part of the Atlantic Health System team, was about to find herself face to face with a too-familiar foe. Her oncologist had explained to her years earlier that despite their aggressive approach, there would always be a small risk of recurrence in the peritoneal wall (the membrane lining the walls of the abdominal cavity and enclosing the viscera). For that reason, her oncologist was vigilant about monitoring Rubin's blood for rising levels of CA-125, a common marker for ovarian cancer. In 2009, he detected an alarming spike.
Additional testing blew the cover off a new diagnosis—stage-three ovarian cancer this time—and Rubin's life was once again put on hold. Despite her previous experience, despite all she knew about future risks, Rubin admits she was caught off-guard. "My cancer came at me from a direction I didn't expect, but that's what happens," she says. "Initially when I got the second diagnosis, I was totally stunned. I had blocked out the first diagnosis because I didn't want to be obsessing about cancer. I had done everything possible to protect myself and was greeted with an even deadlier cancer. My chances of beating it were not as good. I was frightened for my life. I was worried about my children losing their parent."
And like so many cancer patients that came before her and will come after her, Rubin was mournful about the possibility of missing out. "I wasn't ready to see my life end," she says. "I was celebrating a ten-year anniversary with an amazing spouse. My career had matured. My three kids were through the teenage years. I felt I had this nice chapter ahead when I would see them fall in love, get married, and have children. I was disappointed I'd get robbed of the 'harvest season.' Your fifties, sixties, and seventies are the harvest years when you get to see what you grew, and I wanted to be part of it."
So Rubin did what she had done before, and she began the long fight back to health. During a full morning of surgery, doctors removed any evidence of cancer in the peritoneum and inserted ports for subsequent chemotherapy. That was followed by an aggressive chemotherapy delivered, in part, directly into the peritoneum. "It was a very intense summer," Rubin says—but she was on her way to becoming what she refers to as an "equal-opportunity cancer survivor," having now had experiences with two different cancers.
Getting it All Out
During this period, Rubin didn't feel up to returning calls from the many people who would check in by phone for updates. At night, the side effects of chemotherapy and the medication to ward off nausea kept Rubin awake around the clock. And so it was at this time, in the fall of 2009, that Rubin started writing essays that she would e-mail to friends and relatives.
"I started writing as therapy," she explains. (In fact, narrative therapy is a technique used by Overlook's Palliative Care Department to help patients of all kinds cope with the feelings associated with their diagnoses.) "It was a way to let out steam—and I had plenty of steam.
"My oldest daughter was expecting my first grandchild, and I wanted to tell my own story to her in my own words," Rubin continues. "You lose your voice if you don't do something to memorialize it. So I would just get up at night and go to the computer and start drafting an essay, and by the time I was finished my husband would be waking up. We'd have a cup of coffee and I would read him what I'd written."
The essays weren't entirely about cancer; most were about Rubin's experiences growing up, handling challenges, and becoming an adult—universal experiences with which so many people can identify. "My stories are no different than anyone else's," Rubin says. "I think that's why people responded so well to them, and encouraged me to share them."
So well, indeed. The essays that got Rubin through all of those chemotherapy-plagued nights morphed into a book, Almost a Princess. "I'm not one of those people who was destined to write a book," Rubin admits. "I was always more the mad-scientist student, not a writer. But this process worked for me."
Without question, Rubin's words are working for others, too, no doubt because of the emotions and thread of humor woven through her stories. "I come from a family where people had a great sense of humor, and I have found that humor can sometimes help me through the worst situations," Rubin says. "A lot of the essays in the book are about the funny things that have happened. Being able to laugh—and being able to laugh at oneself—is cathartic. It's an important way to heal. The book isn't about cancer, but the cancer is central to why I wrote it. It's been an unfortunate experience, but in the end, sharing my story has helped me and has helped others." (In fact, the book's publisher, iUniverse, has awarded Almost a Princess its Star designation, recognizing excellence in writing. Annually, iUniverse publishes between 4,000 and 5,000 books and offers this designation to less than one percent of those publications.)
Headed Toward the Future
It's just days short of Rubin's two-year anniversary with this second cancer, and all signs so far are positive. She has her blood monitored regularly and is enrolled in one of Carol G. Simon Cancer Center's clinical trials, led by gynecologic oncologist Brian Slomovitz, MD, to prevent recurrence of the disease. "The reason I did well with breast cancer and ovarian cancer was because they were detected early," she says. "I've done everything I can do. My strategy now is to live each day fully, shake off the small stuff, and try not to do anything that I'll be ashamed of—I try really hard to be constructive.
"Time is so precious," she continues, "and I want to live to enjoy the harvest as long as I can. I have a life worth living, and the two years since my second diagnosis is a good head-start on survivorship."
Almost a Princess ... and More
Half the proceeds from Almost a Princess support the Mathilda Fund, a designated account for ovarian cancer research at Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook and Morristown Medical Centers. The Fund is named after Jane Rubin's paternal great-grandmother, who is believed to have died of ovarian/breast cancer in the early part of the twentieth century. "She was all but lost to history; I had to embark on research just to learn her name," Rubin explains. "She symbolizes the thousands of women just like her who had minimal healthcare. She's a great symbol of how far we've come and where we're going."
The book—available at the Gift Shop and Bloom at Overlook Medical Center, at Barnes and Noble stores, and online through Amazon.com—has sparked an outpouring of support in the community. It has also ignited an additional effort to support the Mathilda Fund through a unique fund-raising opportunity. "Patti Bleicher, a close friend from college, opened Gallery Loupe in Montclair for craft jewelry artists," explains Rubin. "She and Barbara Seidenath, an internationally known metal artist, offered to design an annual piece of jewelry to support the Mathilda Fund." This year's Mathilda Brooch, a deconstruction of the pink and teal ribbons that represent women's cancers, symbolizes the widespread impact these diseases have on family, friends, and the community. All funds raised through the sale of the Mathilda Brooch will be donated to the Mathilda Fund.
To learn more about the Mathilda Brooch, go to www.galleryloupe.com or call (973) 744-0061. For more information about Almost a Princess or the Mathilda Fund, visit www.almostaprincess.com.
New Jersey Jewish News, September 28, 2011
Cancer survivor shares her story with others
After two diagnoses, author offers lessons on taking control
+ enlarge image
Jane Loeb Rubin, speaking at the JCC, holds up the book she wrote about her experience with cancer. Photo by Elaine Durbach
September 28, 2011
The first time Jane Loeb Rubin dealt with cancer, she tried to put the whole experience behind her as quickly as she could.
The second time, 10 years later, she took a very different route — delving deep into all that the illness illuminated for her.
Rubin, who lives in Randolph, began writing — about fear, loss (including her first marriage), resilience, and love.
She published a book, Almost a Princess: My Life as a Two-Time Cancer Survivor, this spring and has been using it as vehicle to meet audience after audience, in an effort to help others.
As she says in the book, it is addressed "to those who have struggled with serious health challenges and are determined to live each day to the fullest."
On Sept. 18, she was at the JCC of Central New Jersey, as a guest speaker at its Fitness and Wellness Center. She will speak in West Orange on Oct. 16, in Manhattan on Oct. 17, and in Maplewood on Oct. 22 (details are at her website, almostaprincess.com).
Half the proceeds from sales of her book go to the Mathilda Fund, which Rubin set up and named in memory of her paternal great-grandmother. Mathilda, she discovered, died in her 30s or mid-40s of a euphemistically named "women's disease," probably cancer. The money will go to fund the participation of Morristown and Overlook medical centers — both part of the Atlantic Health System — in an innovative screening trial for ovarian cancer.
She pointed out that 21,000 women a year in the United States are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and about 15,000 die of it. However, with the 25 percent of ovarian cancer detected early, the survival rate is higher than 90 percent.
Rubin's efforts are fueled in part by the disproportionately high genetic propensity for breast and ovarian cancer in the Ashkenazi population. Among those focusing on cancer awareness among Jewish women are Sharsheret, a Teaneck-based organization that has linked up with Jewish Family Service of Central NJ, and Trinitas Regional Health Center, which has held a number of programs at the JCC and at the YM-YWHA of Union County.
With October designated Breast Cancer Awareness Month, breast cancer activists will have a higher than usual profile.
While celebrating the advances in breast cancer care, Rubin stressed the need to bring the same effort to other forms too. Research into ovarian cancer is decades behind breast cancer, Rubin said. "There is a lot that we don't know, and research is where the answer will lie."
A hospital administrator for over two decades, she is now director of neuroscience for Atlantic Health System. It was through that job that she met Nancy Gross, who leads a long-running and very popular course in narrative medicine at Overlook in Summit, encouraging people to write about their experiences with illness and recovery.
Writing gave her a way to take control of what she was feeling. "It was very cathartic," she said. Establishing the fund, and dedicating the proceeds to it, helped also to follow her husband David's advice not to "look down" at her predicament, but ahead, to where she was determined to get.
Her approach isn't sugar-coated. She doesn't favor the pink bows used to symbolize breast cancer. Instead she wears a medallion she had designed for the Mathilda Fund, an oval with loops of different colors. "Cancer isn't about tidy bows," she said. "A lot of hearts get tied to this disease, entangled together."
Her breast cancer was diagnosed 13 years ago, and later tests showed she carries the BRCA 1 gene mutation. Rubin had prophylactic surgery to remove her remaining breast and a total hysterectomy. She also began a fastidious regimen of regular check-ups.
That didn't prevent the next round. Two years ago, she was diagnosed with peritoneal cancer. However, she said, her regimen might have saved her life. The new growth was discovered during one of those check-ups, years after others might have decided they were in the clear. She underwent chemotherapy, and is doing well.
Happily married for the second time, Rubin has three grown children and is delighting in her first grandchild. It's very clear that she likes her life and wants many more years of it.
"I'm monitoring my C-125 level, and it is always going to be monitored from here on in," she said. "You play the hand that you've been dealt. At some point, your health catches up with your circumstances, and the question is how you deal with it."
Sunday Daily Record, 5/8/2011
Better than a princess Medical memoir makes 'meaning of chaos'
Jane Rubin, director of neuroscience services at Atlantic Health System, has written a personal and medical memoir. / Staff Photo: Bob Karp
"Almost a Princess" is the featured Consumer Health Book in the Summer 2011 Newsletter of Overlook Medical Center!
New Jersey Monthly - online
"Almost a Princess" Reading and Book Signing to Support Ovarian Cancer Research
- May 11, 2011
A two-time cancer survivor and a hospital administrator, Jane Rubin introduces her first book, "Almost a Princess," at a reception and book signing. Jane Rubin, a life-long resident of New Jersey, embarked on this memoir to share her experience from the dual perspectives of a patient and a health care professional. After Jane's first diagnosis of breast cancer at the age of 46, she underwent chemotherapy and, later, radical prophylactic surgery to stave off the effects of the BRCA1 genetic mutation she had inherited. Ten years later, she was diagnosed with peritoneal cancer, and underwent another round of surgery and chemotherapy. While her cancer is presently in remission, Rubin must undergo monthly testing to detect any recurrence of this dreaded disease. In "Almost a Princess," Rubin, now 57, reflects on her life growing up in a secular Jewish home with a hard-nosed, but loving father; marrying her high school sweetheart at 19; raising three children as a divorced single parent; working in the healthcare field; remarrying in her forties; and becoming a grandmother, all with the wise insights gained from struggling with her own health challenges. At first, she wrote about her experiences as a therapeutic exercise, to gain self understanding as she faced down cancer, but, at the urging of family and friends, became determined to share the coping strategies she developed for herself with other survivors and their families. "With humor, with grace and with wisdom, she takes us along on her journey of 'self-discovery' and it becomes our own," says Rabbi Donald B. Rossoff of Temple B'nai Or in Morristown. "Reading of her hope gives us hope. Learning of her healing helps us with our own and gives us insight into the inner world of the patient as person."Half of all royalties from this publication will be donated to ovarian cancer research.Rubin is the director of Neuroscience for Atlantic Health System, which includes Overlook and Morristown Memorial Hospitals. She spent more than 25 years as a healthcare administrator. She earned her undergraduate degree and master's degree in speech pathology from the University of Michigan, a master's in business administration from Washington University in Saint Louis, MO. She lives in Randolph with her husband, David.
Cancer survivor and 'Almost a Princess' author shares her story in evening at Overlook Hospital, Summit
Published: Saturday, April 23, 2011, 9:22 AM
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SUMMIT — A two-time cancer survivor and a hospital administrator, Jane Rubin introduces her first book, Almost a Princess, at a reception and book signing at Overlook Hospital, Wednesday, May 11, from 6 to 8 p.m.
The event will be held in the Overlook Hospital Wallace Auditorium, 99 Beauvoir Ave. in Summit. Parking will be in the hospital's West Garage.
Books will be available for $15 and $25. The author will sign her books. Proceeds will benefit ovarian cancer research. The event will include a wine reception. Reserve to attend. Contact Nancy Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org or 908-522-2894.
Jane Rubin, a life-long resident of New Jersey, embarked on this memoir to share her experience from the dual perspectives of a patient and a health care professional. After Rubin's first diagnosis of breast cancer at the age of 46, she underwent chemotherapy and, later, radical prophylactic surgery to stave off the effects of the BRCA1 genetic mutation she had inherited.
Ten years later, she was diagnosed with peritoneal cancer, and underwent another round of surgery and chemotherapy. While her cancer is presently in remission, Rubin must undergo monthly testing to detect any recurrence of this disease.
In Almost a Princess, Rubin, now 57, reflects on her life growing up in a secular Jewish home with a hard-nosed, but loving father; marrying her high school sweetheart at 19; raising three children as a divorced single parent; working in the healthcare field; remarrying in her 40s; and becoming a grandmother, all with the wise insights gained from struggling with her own health challenges.
At first, she wrote about her experiences as a therapeutic exercise, to gain self understanding as she faced down cancer, but, at the urging of family and friends, became determined to share the coping strategies she developed for herself with other survivors and their families.
"With humor, with grace and with wisdom, she takes us along on her journey of self-discovery and it becomes our own," says Rabbi Donald B. Rossoff of Temple B'nai Or in Morristown. "Reading of her hope gives us hope. Learning of her healing helps us with our own and gives us insight into the inner world of the patient as person."
Half of all royalties from this publication will be donated to ovarian cancer research.
Rubin is the director of Neuroscience for Atlantic Health System, which includes Overlook and Morristown Memorial Hospitals. She spent more than 25 years as a healthcare administrator. She earned her undergraduate degree and master's degrees in speech pathology from the University of Michigan, a master's in business administration from Washington University in Saint Louis, MO. She lives in Randolph with her husband, David.