Jan Mulvaney

Jan Mulvaney

Breast Cancer

Fairfax, Virginia



Jan is a life long educator. She earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Illinois, and later attended Peabody and Vanderbilt Universities. During her 38 years in education, she has taught everyone from 3 year olds to graduate students. Now at age 70, she still works part-time in educational administration.

When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and went through a 6-year journey in treatment. Because her spouse Merle was in the military she was sent from her regular doctor to Walter Reed Military Hospital. Where to her surprise she was treated as a warmly and affectionately as a human being as opposed to a number.

The Journey

“The day I was diagnosed, I had never felt better in my whole life. And then to be told you have cancer, you just spend a while just even comprehending what that means. In the 6 years, as merle said it, it really is a journey. It’s not journey you go through by yourself, the caregiver role is incredibly important. So it’s a journey that impacts and affects the whole family.”

“I know a lot of people who go through these journeys alone. And that really (***) and I don’t know how they do it. Because the support I have had has been amazing. And that makes a huge amount of difference.”

Getting Through

“First you experience disbelief… I was in a very respected position, in terms of my career, and felt like I was making a difference in what I was doing. You go through disbelief and then you go through when you’re scared to death. I had one biopsy and then another when I came here (Walter-Reed), but ultimately I had to have a mastectomy. So you go through stages of being hopeful and then you hear news that you need to have something else and you think maybe that will work. A lot of it is an emotion roller coaster where one day you think your going to make it, and the next day you’re not going to make it....(but) The way I look at it is, there’s not such thing as a bad day”