Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Face of Defense: Army Couple Survives Cancer, Continues to Serve

By Army Sgt. Brandon LeFlore
Special to American Forces Press Service

June 30, 2009 - Army 1st Sgt. Jane Baldwin and her husband, Army Maj. Page Baldwin, beat the odds of cancer, and at the same time, grew closer as a couple, expanding their family and resolving to continue their military service. "You really find out who your friends are when you're faced with a life-threatening illness," Sergeant Baldwin said. "I am so very thankful for all of their help with meals, cleaning, giving me hope, helping with my children and everything else."

Six years ago, the first sergeant, who was Jane Payeur at the time, competed in the Mrs. Florida America pageant, which sparked her interest in plastic surgery. A meeting with a plastic surgeon about possible augmentation surgery required a mammogram. Within hours of having the procedure, her doctor's office notified her that her surgery was cancelled. Her mammogram had shown calcium deposits in her mammary gland – a warning sign of cancer.

Follow-up procedures confirmed breast cancer. She had surgery right away, followed by several months of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. More than six years after her doctor diagnosed breast cancer and gave her a poor prognosis, Baldwin still is serving her country, she recently gave birth to a son.

"I believe the Mrs. Florida America pageant experience helped save my life," she said, explaining that because she was not yet 40 and had no symptoms, she otherwise wouldn't have had the mammogram. According to the American Cancer Society, fewer than 5 percent of breast cancer cases occur in women under 40.

"If I had not gone to the pageant and then decided to get implants, which required the mammogram, 2003 would have been my last year," she said.

Major Baldwin, command information officer in charge of the 343rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment deployed here, is no stranger to cancer. He was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare and malignant tumor found in the bone or soft tissue. He, too, received a poor prognosis. "I had a mass the size of a softball in my chest," he said.

What followed began with a trip to the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, followed by three months of chemotherapy, the removal of three ribs, and then another three months of chemo.

Both of the Baldwins have made significant career changes and have participated in the American Cancer Society's "Relay for Life." They've also both been deployed to Iraq since recovering from cancer. The major is serving his second tour.

"Having that shared experience with Jane is an amazing thing," he said. "It helps bring us together."

Positivity, he said, was a key to his recovery. "You have to accept the diagnosis, but you don't have to accept the prognosis," he said. "A positive attitude and strong faith can pull you through just about anything."

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