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Reporter wins round in cancer battle — plus surprise honor

Times-Union reporter Jessie-Lynne Kerr also receives a surprise honor.

Well, we seem to have defeated those nasty cancer cells one more time.

After perhaps the worst night of side effects during my 11-month battle with small cell lung cancer, I had another PET scan Tuesday and — praise God, all who are praying for me and my doctors — there is no evidence of disease!

When I told him the PET scan result, my son posted on his Facebook page: “Mama Kerr 2, Cancer 0.”

After successfully eliminating cancer from my lungs with an aggressive course of chemotherapy and radiation, I was cancer-free from July until November. No chemo treatments, no radiation of my chest or head.

And then, bang!

A PET scan made Nov. 2 showed the cancer had returned to the tail of my pancreas. One of my doctors, Scot Ackerman, was near tears telling me the news. No radiation this time, but a triple course of once-weekly chemotherapy for three weeks, then one week off.

Until the night before this week’s scan, I experienced minimal side effects. But out of an abundance of caution, I take off from work the days I have chemo. This week, Ackerman was jubilant and far from tears in showing me a fairly clean scan.

My doctors have, at my request, been frank and honest about my prognosis. Small cell lung cancer has a propensity to return again and again. Jeff DiMascio, my medical oncologist who prescribes the chemo drugs, told me we’ll be chasing this cancer around my body for the rest of my life.

I have made a pact with DiMascio to ask for appetite stimulants if my weight drops to 140, but I have to tell you, people tell me how great I look with my near 50-pound weight loss. (See, sometimes it pays to get fat, especially if you are going to develop cancer.)

The hair is growing back, but horribly — yucky dull and dark, sparse in places and some of it falls out — so I keep wearing my wigs and scarves.

While fighting my second cancer battle, I passed another milestone — 50 years as a reporter on Dec. 7.

Then this week, my firefighter son Jason Kerr tricked me. He told me he was to accept an award for Fire Station 22 at a dinner and union meeting Thursday night. I needed to be there to take a picture of him getting the award.

Well, they turned the tables on me! I was made an honorary member of the Jacksonville Association of Fire Fighters Local 122.

In addition to covering their triumphs and troubles since 1964, if my son has to work on a holiday, you’ll usually find me in the station kitchen. The day after Christmas it was rib roasts and Yorkshire pudding.

Union President Randy Wyse and my son presented me with a beautiful plaque.

Now I can tell my colleague Ron Littlepage that the next time he writes a column that slams the firefighters’ union, he is slamming me, too.

Back to my cancer. I have another chemo treatment next week and then I am assuming we will take a few months off and then do another scan to see if the little devil cells have decided to inhabit another part of Jessie-Lynne.

But I am optimistic, I had to buy a new battery for my car Friday and I told them to put in the one with the seven-year warranty. I plan to be here well beyond my 72nd birthday at the end of April.


(904) 359-4374

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Thanks for this upbeat article Randy. It emphasizes what I've been attempting since my cancer returned after a year in remission: Learning to live with cancer. I began by responding to "well, you look great" with "look at this, this is what living with cancer looks like." It's been one of the hardest parts of the journey and seeing others do it successfully helps.

Judy in Key West

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I do that too, but with a little hand gesture - a sweep from the chest down to the hip. The other hand slightly outstretched with palm up. As I read your comment, I realized I do this almost every time! Not sure how I developed this response.

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