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'Life doesn't stop': With chemo behind her, cancer patient Jossalyn Larson looks toward next chapter

Since being diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2018, Jossalyn Larson (at right) has been open about her treatment journey. He husband, John Larson (at left), is operations manager for St. Louis Public Radio.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

The year 2018 didn’t go down quite like Jossalyn Larson or her family expected. After being diagnosed with breast cancer in May, Larson underwent several months of chemotherapy. And yet through all the change, some things have stayed the same – and she’s found the various aspects of everyday life helpful as she travels a difficult path.

“Just because you have a diagnosis like this, life doesn’t stop,” Larson said on Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air. “So our kids still need us. My job still needs me. Our parents still need us. So life continues on, and the diagnosis is just something that we get to maneuver around now.”

She told host Don Marsh that those obligations have contributed to her upbeat attitude as the journey continues. Her chemo treatments concluded about four weeks ago, and she’s had more energy and been feeling significantly better as a result.

“Next up is surgery – I actually have my surgery January 9th, so [it’s] imminent,” said Larson, who is opting for a bilateral mastectomy after carefully considering her different options.

She’s shared her experience with St. Louis Public Radio listeners at several points along her treatment journey. Her husband, John Larson, who is operations manager for STLPR, joined her for this discussion.

Looking back on the past few months, he called it “a learning experience” as a family member and caregiver and added that he’s become more focused on the things and people that matter most to him.

“It helps me put things into perspective, good and bad,” John Larson said. “There’s times where I feel a little sad and pessimistic that I might lose my partner, you know, because that is part of the equation – it’s a life-threatening illness. But then, [even] more so, there’s the optimistic, joyful side that we’re living right in the moment, and our relationship has changed for the better. It was already great, but it really has changed for the better. We treat each moment like it’s very precious.”

When asked if he had any advice to offer other spouses and caregivers, Larson said it’s important to make the most of educational resources to understand what the cancer patient is going through. In addition, he said, “have some improv to it.”

“Be fluid about [the whole experience], because it really does change minute to minute,” he said. “Looking at Jossy in the eye when she was going through the roughest part of the chemo, and working hard to make sure my face didn’t contort into that ‘oh my god’ face – because I was really concerned and worried – helped me certainly become much more empathetic and conscientious toward Jossy.”

Jossalyn Larson, who took some time off from her university teaching job while going through chemotherapy this past fall, will be returning to those duties during the spring 2019 semester even as she looks toward further cancer treatment in the months to come.

“I’d say that the biggest shift for me has been that my priorities have changed,” she said of her journey thus far. “And I’m less fearful now, and what that has done for me is: I didn’t think I was holding on to any kind of grudges or any kind of old, bad feelings. But all of that came to light, like, ‘Yeah, actually I do have some unfinished business in these different places in my life.’ So I’ve wanted to take those on and to alleviate those in a way that I wouldn’t have had to if I didn’t have the diagnosis.

“And then also, my stepfather is diabetic, and he’s going through some difficult issues now. He just lost a leg to the disease, and so he and I have gotten really close, because he’s dealing with an amputation and I’m looking down the barrel of an amputation. So we’ve gotten very close that way too, and we’ve gotten to know each other on a new level.”

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Alex HeuerEvie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Evie is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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