At the beginning of last year, Jamil Rivers, 40, was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. The mother of three, who works full-time, discussed her battle to survive with People Magazine and the unexpected news the family received three months ago.
Rivers, a Philadelphia resident, had recently finished ten months of chemotherapy when her husband Ricky, 37, was diagnosed with stage 1 kidney cancer. Ricky, who survived colon cancer six years ago, has a history of cancer on both sides of his family.
Now, Jamil and Ricky face an arduous battle to keep the family united and their finances afloat. Jamil, who describes herself as “a leader and a planner,” worked from home for a few days after Ricky’s diagnosis. While he underwent surgery, Jamil took care of the kids on her own and struggled to maintain a sense of normalcy in their family.
Although Jamil has completed her chemotherapy, she is still battling cancer. Her tumors have shrunk but she still has stage 4 cancer. “I’ve managed to juggle everything though. What’s my other choice? Not getting out of bed? That’s not an option,” she said.
The couple managed to keep the family together by pushing through. Jamil balanced chemotherapy while continuing to work, and when she finished her treatment, Ricky began his. Though their children are young, they understand that their parents are dealing with an illness. Jamil keeps tabs on their anxiety levels and makes sure she answers all their questions.
The couple has been supported by The American Cancer Society, which provided free rides to treatment for Jamil, while Ricky stayed home with the kids. For now, they are focused on taking it one day at a time but also making the most of every moment they have.
“We have a lot of stuff to do while I’m still feeling well. I’m going to work until I can’t and I’m going to be a mom for as long as possible,” she says. “We take them to school activities and things after school and support them with everything. We remind ourselves that we are lucky in some ways and that we will get through this. Family is everything.”
According to The American Cancer Society, stage 4 breast cancer means the cancer has spread beyond the breast and lymph nodes to other parts of the body, such as the bones, liver, and lungs. It can also spread to the brain or other organs. Women with stage 4 breast cancer receive systemic therapy, including hormone therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of the three.
Stage 1 kidney cancer is still contained in the kidney and is usually removed with surgery. Surgery may include a partial nephrectomy, which removes part of the kidney, or a radical nephrectomy, which removes the entire kidney. The lymph nodes near the kidney can be removed as well, especially if they are enlarged.