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Having Faith and Fun

March 12, 2018 11:03 a.m.

  • Jack & Jan Little

Despite life’s ups and downs, Jack and Jan Little try to find the purpose and fun in everything.

Jack and Jan Little say they’re having “too much fun” these days, and they credit their team of doctors at Sarah Bush Lincoln for helping them reach this stage of life.

Seventeen years ago, Jack and Jan were set up on a date. They say they used that first meeting to “test” each other on likes and dislikes, dreams and goals. From bucket-list trips to their favorite books, the pair immediately recognized that they had a shared vision of their future. To this day, Jan says she remembers exactly what she was wearing the day she met Jack. Seven months later, they were married, and their adventure began.

When they met, Jan was already a breast cancer survivor. Having been diagnosed in 1987 when she was a single mother of two young children, she moved to Mattoon to be closer to her family. She received her follow-up care at the Sarah Bush Lincoln Regional Cancer Center with Medical Oncologist Edward Hoppin, MD.

“Dr. Hoppin was a wonderful man,” Jan remembered. “I was used to a fancy, big-city hospital, and then I moved here and saw this hospital in the middle of a cornfield, yet it [Sarah Bush Lincoln] was just as up-to-date. We have everything here that we need.”

After Jan and Jack were married, they both worked with Sarah Bush Lincoln doctors to stay on top of their health. Their family practice physician, Bernie Ranchero, MD, strongly recommended that they participate in the Heart to Heart program through Sarah Bush Lincoln. Shortly after they completed the program, Dr. Ranchero asked them to come discuss the results. He informed Jack that his PSA levels were significantly elevated and referred him to Urologist David DiDomenico, MD.

“We have so much respect for Dr. Ranchero,” Jack said, “He is knowledgeable, approachable, concerned, calming and very honest. He gave us lots of options and was always open to us seeking a second opinion.”

The initial testing found a small, low-grade prostate cancer, but follow-up scans found two spots on Jack’s bones, which doctors feared meant that the cancer had spread. Jack and Jan initially attempted to schedule a consultation with an out-of-town facility, but when staff at that hospital failed to return Jan’s phone call, she knew where to turn. “I knew we couldn’t wait,” Jan said, “so I went into the Sarah Bush Lincoln Regional Cancer Center and talked to the staff that Friday. They called me back that afternoon, and by Tuesday we were meeting with Dr. Cho (Radiation Oncologist Seong Cho, MD) and ‘Jag’ (Medical Oncologist Kuppuswamy Jagarlamudi, MD).”

“It felt great,” Jack said of his first appointment with the doctors. “We got a great first impression (of the doctors), and we left that day with a plan in place to fight the cancer.”

Jack underwent a special PET scan in Decatur, which did show suspicious spots on his bones, but his follow-up biopsy showed no bone cancer. As a Vietnam veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange, Jack and his doctors recognized that they would need to perform regular testing to ensure that the spots did not become cancerous, but Jack said that Dr. Jagarlamudi has never lost his focus on the treatment plan.

Jack recognizes that his history as a veteran and a cancer survivor make it even more important to stay on top of his own healthcare. “I look at it like preventive maintenance on a vehicle,” he said. “It really takes no time, and you feel good in the end. I want to grow old with Jan, take trips together and see my grandkids grow up.”

Even with their significant battles, including a melanoma diagnosis that Jack received in 2004, the Littles say that they don’t let fear impact their decisions. “Life is going to give you a lot of things, but everything happens for a purpose and a reason,” Jan said.

Jack agreed, “Sometimes we live long enough to see the purpose, and sometimes we don’t, but my faith plays a large role. I know where I’m going, so I always have the realization that all is not lost.”

For more information about the SBL Regional Cancer Center, call 217-258-2250 or go to www.sarahbush.org.

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