A “love train” of family and friends helps Jane Schwartzberg cope with Stage IV breast cancer—one day at a time.
Back to School Night for Jack and Ally. Check! Prepare for 8:30 phone call with client. Check! Pick up salad makings for dinner. Check! Like many moms, Jane Schwartzberg manages a lengthy “to do” list. Unlike most, coping with stage IV breast cancer is on that list. How does she manage? “I ride my love train,” says Jane.
“Everything seemed fine”
Since her 2000 diagnosis with stage I breast cancer, friends and family members have surrounded Jane and husband Mickey with love and support. They were there with home-cooked casseroles after her bilateral mastectomy. Some sat with her through months of chemo. And, then, all this “cancer business” for the young Montclair, NJ, couple seemed “done.”
“Two years later, I was told it was okay to have children.” So she did: Ally, in 2003, and Jack, in 2005. And in 2010, the young family celebrated when Jane, now 45, was declared cancer-free. “I was told I didn’t even have to come back for regular checkups.”
But in 2011, some baffling symptoms resembling bronchitis sent Jane to her doctor. “I had been 100% meticulous about my medical care—I was getting blood work, physicals and scans.” Everything appeared fine. So it seemed unthinkable—impossible!—when her doctor told her that her cancer had returned. “When I woke up from a lung biopsy, my husband had to tell me that it was confirmed—the cancer was in my lungs. I was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer—metastatic and incurable.”
“I take it a day at a time”
Jane had surgery to remove her ovaries and now takes tamoxifen, which slows or stops the growth of hormone-sensitive tumors. She knows that if this combination stops working, she has other options—she simply prefers not to discuss them with her medical team right now: “When I need to know the next step, I’ll find out.”
Taking it one day at a time helps her stay grounded. “When I’m at work, I’m really at work,” says Jane, who commutes to her job at a wealth-management firm not far from home. “When I’m with the kids, I’m really with the kids. And I’m proud that they see me go to work—it’s one aspect of normalcy in our lives.”
“Love is power”
Today, Jane reflects on the power of her personal love train, on the people who have given her rides, hosted play dates, said prayers or simply sat in silence with her. “It has been their love that has made it possible for me to reengage with life.”
“Please know,” she told a rapt congregation not long ago, “that just being in a sick person’s world is one of the most powerful acts of kindness you can perform.” And the secret she wants to share? “All that really matters is the love we give and receive.”
Enter for a chance to win a copy of Naked Jane Bares All
For a chance to win a signed copy of Jane’s memoir, Naked Jane Bares All, email email@example.com and write “Jane” in the subject line. The first three writers will be the lucky recipients.