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Life is Sweet on a Bicycle Built for Two

Paoli couple takes the lead. Cancer is just along for the ride.

Jane YockeyThe love story of Jayne and Alan Yockey is reminiscent of popular oldie “Daisy Bell,” written in 1892:

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do.
I’m half crazy, all for the love of you.
It won’t be a stylish marriage.
I can’t afford a carriage.
But you’ll look sweet
Upon the seat
Of a bicycle built for two.

The Yockeys expected to be doing things in tandem when they married in 1983, but it was an unusual wedding gift to themselves – a bicycle built for two – that inspired them to do things “on tandem.” For more than 35 years, this athletic couple has been participating in tandem rallies and cycling events throughout the United States. For the past 10 years, they’ve accommodated a third, constant companion they didn’t invite on their travels—Jayne’s metastatic ovarian cancer. Jayne said making room for cancer and leading a full and active life has been the result of teamwork. Her teammates working beside her and Alan, day by day, include her cancer specialists at Abington – Jefferson Health.

Although there are times cancer has slowed Jayne’s pace, she’s back in the saddle and traveling with Alan whenever possible. “I live with cancer,” said Jayne, 70. “I don’t want a pity party. I surround myself with people and activities that keep me positive and upbeat and I keep going.” Among those people are the knowledgeable and skilled cancer specialists from Abington’s Hanjani Institute for Gynecologic Oncology, who have been providing advanced care since Jayne was diagnosed with stage 1C ovarian cancer in 2008.

Living better and longer as a team player in her medical care

Jayne first sought care at Abington after a routine exam with her doctor. She told her physician she’d been experiencing breast tenderness and painful intercourse at times. Follow-up imaging tests showed that Jayne had a mass with worrisome features on her left ovary. Jayne’s doctor referred her to Mark Shahin, MD, director, Hanjani Institute for Gynecologic Oncology.

Dr. Shahin conducted a comprehensive evaluation and thoroughly discussed treatment options with Jayne and Alan. Jayne decided to follow Dr. Shahin’s recommendation for debulking surgery, which included surgical removal of her ovaries and fallopian tubes, uterus, the omentum (a layer of fatty tissue that covers the abdominal contents), and several lymph nodes in the pelvis and abdomen for biopsy to determine if the cancer had spread. “When you’re diagnosed with ovarian cancer, everything happens very quickly,” recalled Jayne. “I talked with Dr. Shahin on a Friday and the following Wednesday, was undergoing surgery at Abington. I put great trust in my doctors.”

Although Dr. Shahin successfully removed all of the visible tumor, results from the biopsies found cancer cells outside the ovary. Therefore, after recovering from surgery, Jayne underwent a cycle of chemotherapy infusions to kill remaining cancer cells. During that time, Jayne – a former physical education teacher, seasoned athlete and ardent cyclist – continued biking, sometimes 80 miles a day. She remained free of evidence of cancer until 2011, when tests showed the disease had spread to an area near Jayne’s colon. Her metastatic cancer could not be cured, but it was treatable. With ongoing treatment, ovarian and some other cancers tend to repeat a cycle of growing, shrinking and stabilizing. Thanks to ongoing advances in research and treatment, Jayne joined the increasing number of women today who work with their medical teams to control ovarian cancer, relieve symptoms and live longer.

“Jayne has been a capable partner in her care,” said Dr. Shahin. “She participates in the decision making and does all she can to be as well as possible while living with the disease.” In addition to Dr. Shahin, other Abington cancer specialists who’ve collaborated in Jayne’s care include Michael Nussbaum, MD, section chief, Surgical Oncology, Abington – Jefferson Health; Wayne Pinover, DO, radiation oncologist; Russell Schilder, MD, director, Medical Gynecologic Oncology Program, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson; and Mark Zebley, MD, surgical director, G.I. Procedure Unit.

A chemo cycle, a bicycle: she keeps moving

During the past 10 years, Jayne’s ongoing treatment has involved additional surgeries, including the removal of a portion of her colon, her spleen and appendix. She’s undergone radiation treatments and multiple cycles of chemotherapy, including intraperitoneal treatment, during which concentrated doses of chemo drugs are injected directly into the abdominal cavity through a catheter (thin tube). In addition, Jayne has participated in clinical trials and has benefited from the latest advances in tumor profiling and targeted therapy. “I’m fortunate in that I’ve had minimal side effects from treatment,” said Jayne. “When I’m not feeling well, I tell my family I’m going to bed for a few days and I’ll be up when I’m feeling better.”

The couple travels worldwide and enjoys hiking and kayaking. Upcoming travel plans include excursions to Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming; Salt Lake City, Utah; and whitewater rafting in Idaho. Active in local politics, when they aren’t traveling, Jayne and Alan are helping others to hit the campaign trail.

Since Jayne’s cancer diagnosis, they’ve biked across Washington State, the Florida Panhandle and Missouri; around Lake Erie; and participated in tandem rallies and rides in New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, and Gettysburg, among other areas throughout the United States. When they’re home, most days you’ll find the couple on the local Chester Valley Trail, enjoying a leisurely 20-mile ride on a bicycle built for two.

For information about the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Abington – Jefferson Health, visit JeffersonHealth.org/AbingtonCancer or call 215-481-4000.

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