Honorary Survivors: Jeanne Wilbur & Jeff Geist

Jeff Geist and Jeanne Wilbur
Jeff Geist and Jeanne Wilbur

Jeanne Wilbur found out she had cancer when she was pregnant with her second daughter in 2011. After seeing a series of doctors, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer Nov. 17, 2011.

She had her thyroid removed Dec. 21 that year to treat the cancer, but she found out the cancer returned in her lymph nodes in October 2013 at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

They treated it with an ethanol ablation, which is a procedure that injects concentrated alcohol to the cancer site to destroy the tumor without surgery.

Wilbur remembers this process vividly because it was right by her carotid artery.

“I remember sitting there the whole time thinking, ‘If I move, I’m dead,’” Wilbur recalled.

She went back to the doctor last month to find out she has four more nodes that could be cancerous. She’ll have to go back in six months to have them biopsied, but that hasn’t stopped her from enjoying life.

She tells other cancer patients to not take anything for granted and to take each day as it is. She’ll also be speaking at the Relay for Life event Aug. 8.

“I spend every day with my kids, as much as I can, because I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Wilbur said. “I sit here terrified that it’s going to go to my brain or my lungs or my bones, and if it ever does, I’m pretty much done for.”

She has the support of her partner, and oral cancer survivor, Jeff Geist.

Geist was diagnosed in February of last year. He jokingly said his experience was fantastic.

“I was scared,” Geist recalls of his experience through treatment. “The advice I’d have for cancer patients would be to find somebody they love and trust when they’re going through it.”

He’s been in remission since May 2013 and will be one of the honorary survivors at the Aug. 8 event. He said he feels gifted to have a partner who has also had cancer.

Wilbur, who has three children, said they don’t really understand what’s going on yet.

“I say I have sick in my neck, so every time I go to the doctor’s office, they ask, ‘Mom, are you going for your neck?’”

Her kids — Ava Wilbur, 6, Zoey Wilbur, 3, and Remington Geist, 1 — get her full attention. It’s a challenge some days, but she’s learned a lot from it.

“Having three kids and cancer, you don’t really know what your thyroid does until it’s taken out,” Wilbur said.