GOSHEN — The battle with cancer is difficult, taxing and doesn't discriminate. The disease doesn't pick and choose based on age, status or other factors.
In 1986, actress Jill Eikenberry had just finished shooting the pilot to a show called “L.A. Law” when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Along her long and arduous path to recovery, she learned that even though a diagnosis is frightening, it is best to be open about the experience and share one's story. Speaking with others only serves to help emotionally and psychologically, a good thing considering the disease is as related to those elements as it is to the physical, according to Eikenberry and fellow cancer survivor Jade Vira of New Paris.
Eikenberry and Michael Tucker, her husband and co-star from the long-running series, brought their story and experiences to Goshen College's Sauder Music Center at the request of IU Health Goshen Center for Cancer Care. For the seventh consecutive year, the center hosted their “True Celebration” event, recognizing those who are facing their fight against cancer and honoring survivors and caretakers.
Previous speakers at “True Celebration” have included U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, former ABC News anchor Sam Donaldson and former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz. This year, the center chose Eikenberry, who has family living in Nappanee.
Both Eikenberry and Vira spoke before the program about the need to detect the disease early. “Rule it out right away,” said Vira, the mother of two young girls. Eikenberry also advised checking out any issues as soon as questions arise. And when it comes down to fighting the disease, a good attitude goes a long way.
“Don't get on the Internet,” they advised with a chuckle. Since outlook and mood are such vital factors in the recovery process, Eikenberry and Vira advised to not threaten them by looking at statistics that may overwhelm and dishearten. Talking with others is one of the best things a person with cancer can do, according to Eikenberry, and has helped her through two separate bouts of breast cancer.
“Going around the country with the people (Michael and I) talk to reminded us to appreciate our lives and the years I didn't think I'd have.”
But both Eikenberry and Vira inspire hope that those with cancer can live to see those years.