If breast cancer survivor Janet Knowles had to sum up in one sentence her sentiments for her doctors and nurses at the Cooper Cancer Institute, she said it would be this: “Thank you for giving me back the joy of living.”
Today, nine years after her modified radical mastectomy and aggressive chemotherapy, Mrs. Knowles’ joy for life includes family, friends, work, art and a commitment to helping other South Jersey cancer patients fight the disease.
In addition, she volunteers with the American Cancer Society and shares her personal experience with anyone seeking information, support or advice. Mrs. Knowles, along with her husband Harry, have recently donated nearly $5.5 million to Cooper’s breast cancer program.
The funds will be used to enhance and expand breast cancer diagnostic services and treatment options, clinical research efforts, and further develop the survivorship programs now available through the Cooper Cancer Institute.
In thanks and recognition for the Knowles’ generous gift, the Cooper Cancer Institute has named its breast cancer program The Janet Knowles Breast Cancer Center.
The gift has already funded the new digital mammography equipment at the Cooper Imaging Center in Voorhees, NJ. Mrs. Knowles was the first patient to receive mammography screening using the new equipment just moments before the official ribbon cutting ceremony on Oct. 11, 2007.
The gift, said Mrs. Knowles, not only reflects her gratitude to Cooper and for life’s good fortune – Mr. and Mrs. Knowles “grew” to global status their Blackwood, NJ-based barcode-scanning equipment company, Metrologic Instruments Inc.– but also her desire to help lighten the load for other area women dealing with the disease.
“You need a positive attitude to get through illness,” Mrs. Knowles said, crediting the clinical staff and facilities at Cooper with helping her do just that.
“I had toured other facilities and interviewed other doctors before I decided to come to Cooper for treatment,” she said. “What sold me was the warmth, friendliness, knowledge and accessibility of everyone I encountered. When I walked into the infusion room, it was bright, warm and inviting, full of educational literature and open-faced nurses who smiled and greeted me and answered all of my questions. They were so up-beat. I felt like I had my own cheering section,” Mrs. Knowles said.
Also, her preliminary consult with oncologist Generosa (Jenny) Grana, M.D., renowned breast cancer expert and Director of the Cooper Cancer Institute, as well as her relationship with her longtime internist Edward D. Viner, M.D., Cooper’s Senior Vice President for Affiliations and External Development, convinced Mrs. Knowles that Cooper was the place to be.
“I think the world of them,” said Mrs. Knowles, describing Dr. Grana as “a phenomenal human being” and Dr. Viner as “an exceptional physician and a dear person.”
“As busy as Dr. Grana is, when you’re with her you feel like you’re the only patient she has. You have her undivided attention. You can ask her anything and take as long as you need. You’re never rushed. She’ll even find out information for you when you ask. She’s an angel,” Mrs. Knowles said.
She credits Dr. Viner as “the kind of doctor who, on several occasions, has called me from his cell phone while driving home from work, just to see how I was doing after I had seen him for one sick visit or another. That’s unbelievable to me,” Mrs. Knowles said, adding that it was Dr. Viner who suggested she contact Dr. Grana.
Once she lined up “the best care and the best environment,” Mrs. Knowles said she was able to face with confidence the long road ahead of her.
“Hope is what it’s all about,” said Mrs. Knowles, recalling how she kept her mind on “something beautiful” while receiving chemotherapy infusions during a six-month course of treatment.
She also kept a daily journal to sort out her personal feelings, listened to and read inspirational tapes and books, continued with her work and artistic endeavors – Mrs. Knowles is an accomplished bead-jewelry artist – and focused her thoughts on getting well.
“I definitely believe that your state of mind makes a big difference in how you heal,” said Mrs. Knowles, noting that, to this day, she concentrates on the positive outcome of her illness.
“I think about it every day. Every day I realize how lucky I am and how Cooper was there for me. I think of my experience as having been a journey, one that gave me the gift of a new start in life and helps me put aside the petty things and know what’s really important,” Mrs. Knowles said.
She added that Cooper’s plan to build on its Camden campus a comprehensive, multidisciplinary cancer treatment and research center offers hope to even more area residents.
“For the people of South Jersey, Cooper will be at the forefront in treating not only breast cancer but all of the other cancers we’re seeing today,” Mrs. Knowles said.
For more information about the Cooper Cancer Institute and the The Janet Knowles Breast Cancer Center or to schedule an appointment, please call our physician referral and information service at 1-800-8-COOPER (800-826-6737).