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Facing the Unpredictable: Ten Years Later

Ten years after his cancer diagnosis, Steve Cottom and his wife Jane say that it was the care Steve received at the Lipson Cancer Institute that made their 50th wedding anniversary possible. 


Steve Cottom can’t help but smile when he thinks of his 50th wedding anniversary party.

Grandchildren playing with their cousins.

Family members visiting and getting caught up with one another.

His cherished wife taking his hand and cutting the cake.

Ten years ago, Steve wasn’t sure he would get to mark this milestone, but thanks to the care he received at Lipson Cancer Institute, he and Jane are looking forward to even more chances to celebrate.

“The entire staff at Lipson Cancer was so caring, so positive... just topnotch,” said Steve, who first noticed a hard lump in his neck when he was sitting in his chair and watching TV.

The biopsy showed head and neck cancer – a rare, but treatable cancer if caught early. However, the initial prognosis was grim. “It was the first time in our relationship that things were out of our control,” Jane said, so they spent countless hours scouring Google and reaching out to family and friends for support.

Then, Dr. Meri Atanas called with hope. “I’m going to be Steve’s oncologist,” she announced, “and we can beat this. ”Steve began an extensive course of treatment, including chemo, radiation, and the removal of some lymph nodes. Because of the side effects of radiation, he needed a feeding tube. “I had daily treatments for a long time,” he said. “I can’t even remember how many radiation treatments there were.”

Jane stayed right by his side. “It was very difficult watching Steve go through this process, really frightening,” she said. “There were some dark days, but Dr. Atanas and the entire staff at Lipson were so kind and supportive and kept our spirits up. We are so grateful to them.”

That’s why, ten years later, the Cottoms requested donations for Lipson Cancer Institute instead of anniversary gifts. “It was due to Lipson that Steve survived,” Jane said. “Since Steve’s cancer diagnosis, we take nothing for granted. We cherish every stinkin’ day.”

They plan to travel a little bit “before we get too old,” she said, and they are planning a trip to Cadillac Mountain at Acadia National Park. It is the highest point along the north Atlantic seaboard—and the first place in the United States to see the sunrise.

It’s an opportunity to be together and welcome a new, healthy beginning.

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