Embracing a New Journey
- After being absent from Instagram for a year, billiards star Jeanette Lee returned this week with a positive outlook amid her cancer battle.
- Lee, 49, is currently fighting metastatic ovarian cancer.
- BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genetic mutations that can increase your risk for breast and ovarian cancers.
Throughout her chemotherapy treatments, Lee has been grateful for the support of close friends. “My girlfriends Jeannie and Sonya brought me this beautiful orchid to give me strength during my battle! Thank you!” Lee announced in February that she had been diagnosed with the advanced stage disease, which she is determined to fight.
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A few days ago, Lee posted a snap of one of her best friends, Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris (who happens to be a billionaire) expressing to followers how special Morris is to her.
“Had a private surprise visit from my good friend Johnny Morris,” she wrote. “He’s been a true role model, true friend and just an all around solid human being. I’m so thankful that he made the time in an always busy schedule. He’s one of those few people that makes you feel like he can make the world stop so you can see the beauty in the world that God gave us. I love you Johnny!”
Morris first saw Lee playing pool at a real-estate convention and accepted a challenge to play her. Morris was quickly defeated, but fell under the Black Widow’s spell and was instantly charmed by her.
“We were very impressed with how dynamic and personable she was,” Morris, an avid fan of pool, said. “We thought she could do a great job for us at Bass Pro Shops when we have special events in our stores … the lines of fans that she has drawn to get her autograph at our stores have been pretty enlightening to us.”
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A Pool-Playing Legend
Lee grew up in Brooklyn the daughter of Korean immigrants. At 18, she discovered a dark, smoky pool hall in New York City and was immediately intrigued by the sport.
In less than two years after starting to play pool, she became the number one ranked player in the world. Lee also won the gold medal for the U.S. at the 2001 World Akita Games in Japan.
“Jeanette entered a male-dominated world and made it her own,” Lee’s longtime manager Tom George recently told SurvivorNet. “The American sports public only has enough room in their collective memory bank for one billiards star a generation … it has been the ‘Black Widow’ since the ‘90’s and no one has risen to take her place.”
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Shooting pool competitively came as second nature to Lee. “Jeanette saw the table like no one else, the movement of the balls, the geometric patterns,” George told the Indianapolis Star, adding that when she walked into his office, he could tell she was “superstar material.”
An Advanced Stage Diagnosis
Just like the mentality she has used in her sport to dominate, Lee, who currently lives in Tampa, Fla. with her girls, said that she owes it to her daughters to fight.
“I intend to bring the same resolve I brought to the billiards table to this fight,” Lee said at the time of her devastating announcement.
Like any single mother, Lee’s biggest worry is making sure her girls are taken care of, according to Lee’s GoFundMe page, started by some close friends. The money raised will go to Cheyenne, 16, Chloe, 11, and Savannah, 10, to help pay for college. The fund has already exceeded $217,000 out of the $250,000 goal.
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Marshall Gold, a nurse practitioner at Johns Hopkins, talks to SurvivorNet about how mental health and acceptance plays a role after an ovarian cancer diagnosis.
“What do you continue to live for? What brings you joy? To try to see that a little silver lining in a horrible situation, Gold says. “Sometimes just being in the presence of a loved one is enough. Sometimes just holding hands with someone is enough.” In Lee’s case, she is enjoying the support from her friends, and appreciating the beauty around her.
Accepting the reality of the situation is essential. “It’s not going to be a happy place,” he says. “It’s really just being at peace I think is more of the goal. You’re dealing with a life limiting illness and you’re confronting your own mortality.”
Just knowing that you’re not alone in this fight can be so comforting. “It’s absolutely normal to feel whatever you are feeling. Go ahead and be with that anger, go ahead and be with that sadness, that depression. If the depression becomes debilitating, we can talk about other treatments. If the anxiety is overwhelming, we can talk about treatments.”
Focusing on breathing and mindfulness can help the stress of the situation. “We really want to hear where people are so that we can best tailor their care to their needs, giving them care that is the biopsychosocial perspective looking at mind, body, and spirit.”
Unfortunately, there are not very effective screening methods available for ovarian cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, the two tests most used to screen for ovarian cancer are the CA-125 blood test and the transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS), in addition to a pelvic exam. These tests are not reliable or accurate enough, especially for early-stage disease.
That’s why genetic testing is so important, as it can identify your potential risk category for the disease.
“Some genes increase your ovarian cancer risk so high that the benefit would be to remove the ovaries completely. And so the best method to reduce your cancer risk is to have the ovaries removed completely,” Lauren Mills, a genetic counselor at UT Health San Antonio, tells SurvivorNet. “If somebody comes back positive with a mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2, the recommendation is to get a bilateral oophorectomy and hysterectomy, so getting the ovaries and the uterus removed, ideally after childbearing years, usually between ages of 40 to 45.” BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genetic mutations that mainly increase your risk for breast and ovarian cancers.