In March of 1978 when Jann Whittaker-Akin was only 25 years old she found a lump in her breast that influenced her to make an appointment with her doctor. She was informed that she was 2 weeks pregnant with her first born, Jami. Later she received a letter in the mail informing her that she also had breast cancer. Jann and her husband, Jack, consulted with doctor and to plan their next move. He suggested they talk with a surgeon. The surgeon wanted to operate immediately; however, the young couple was scared and wanted to take time to think about the surgery.
Jann scheduled the surgery for the summer of 1978. She had both breasts removed. In December of 1978, Jack and Jann’s first child, Jami, was born. Jann had multiple reconstructive surgeries on her breast in the spring of 1979. She continued to have routine checkups with no cancer. She welcomed the birth of her next two children, Jaycee, in September of 1981, and Jordan, in June of 1984. Jaycee developed a brain tumor in 1985. This was a heavy burden on the whole family. Jack and Jann decided to treat her with chemotherapy, but she died in January of 1987.
Jann was diagnosed with breast cancer again in the spring of 1990. She endured chemotherapy and radiation for the first time and overcame the disease. She continued her checkups with a clean bill of health until the Spring of 2002, when she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Jann vowed never to go through chemotherapy again, so she chose to have part of her lung removed. In the meantime, Jann’s tests indicated that the first surgery was not successful in removing all of the cancer. She needed surgery again. She continued to have breathing problems and no energy; however, after the surgery she was cancer free.
During the summer of 2005 Jann was diagnosed with leukemia. She needed a bone marrow transplant, and all of her family members were tested as potential matches. Luckily her only living sister was a match, but she ultimately decided to forego the bone marrow transfusions and began looking at other options. She decided to try an experimental treatment that required blood work monthly, with frequent doctor’s visits. She began having blood transfusions every 2 weeks. Soon after, Jann decided to have a bone marrow transplant. Then, after talking with her doctors, she scheduled to have 2 weeks of outpatient chemotherapy as well. In the end she changed her mind about having chemotherapy, because Jami had just given birth to her first grandson, Trey, who she wanted to spend more time with. Later, she became very weak and was admitted to the hospital to begin chemotherapy, but before the doctor could begin the treatments, she was diagnosed with pneumonia. The hospital staff tried everything to make her strong enough to undergo chemotherapy. The doctors decided to remove fluid around her heart and placed her in the ICU. Within 12 hours of the surgery, she had fluid surrounding her heart again. She had been in the ICU for a week when her organs failed on July 5, 2008.