Journal of Hope Fall 2009: Profile of Survivorship
At her chemotherapy treatment recently, Gerry Cook made it clear she wasn’t sure why she’d been chosen as a featured testimonial. “Surely, there must be other, more heroic stories than mine to tell!” she genuinely wondered, yet smiled her warm, ever-present smile. She then had a friendly exchange with the nurse at the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center who was taking down Gerry’s chemotherapy IV for the day. They comfortably and lightheartedly joked back and forth like old, familiar friends.
After suffering from chronic, unresolved back pain in 2007 and 2008, Gerry learned in April 2008 that the source of her pain was a malignancy. She soon faced a complex, puzzling diagnosis: bone cancer with no clear origin. Gerry’s bone cancer, although her doctors don’t know where it began, has spread to seven different locations. Following six rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, and then eleven additional rounds of chemotherapy, all of which her cancer resisted, Gerry enrolled in a Phase I clinical trial through the Sarah Cannon Research Institute. Gerry’s therapy is experimental, and the wonderful news is that the result has been positive, just like her outlook.
“I just felt led to enroll in this trial. I have believed all along that this would be the answer, and it is indeed working. I am stable and I am carrying on with my life,” says Gerry.
Gerry first came in contact with The Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation (MPCF)* after seeking nutritional guidance to address her specific dietary concerns. Not only have the steroids she’s been on made her gain weight, but her diet is also more limited by having to take a blood-thinning medication to treat a blood clot. The MPCF’s registered dietitian, Kimberly Petersen, has guided Gerry through a healthful dietary plan and recommended sources of exercise for the limitations bone cancer has imposed. Though Gerry’s interests range from tole painting and stain glass to involvement in church, she deeply misses golf, weight-lifting, Zumba, and 5K runs. Yet, determined to resume an active life, she’s currently exploring water aerobics as an alternative.
With the assistance of a walker, Gerry goes to work everyday at a hospital where she’s worked for ten years. Clearly on Gerry’s side are remarkable resilience, vibrancy, determination, loving family and friends, and her devoted husband Dan who accompanies her to every treatment and has assumed the tasks around the house that used to be Gerry’s. She doesn’t question why she has cancer. She is simply taking one day at a time and says, “Everyday can’t be perfect. I believe in a higher power.”
Hope, strength, and living each day productively and with zest in spite of pain and inconvenience … Gerry, there couldn’t be a more courageous, positive journal of hope than yours.
*In February 2013, The Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation changed its name to PearlPoint Cancer Support.
In memory of Gerry Cook, who passed away since this story was published. We are honored to have shared in Gerry's journey