North Texas cancer patient sees kindred spirit in 'Dancing' contestant Harper

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on September 12, 2013 at 5:55 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 13 at 12:03 AM

DALLAS -- Nothing can stop Joellyn Eubank from taking a trip this weekend. Not even Stage 4 lung cancer that spread to her abdomen.

"You don't get diagnosed and start thinking about dying," said the 69-year-old Eubank. "You get diagnosed and start thinking about living."

She is thrilled that kindred spirit and lung cancer patient Valerie Harper is breaking down misconceptions about life with lung cancer.

When invited to be a contestant on this season's "Dancing with the Stars," the actress said "when life asks you to dance, you just have to dance."

"Absolutely," said Baylor medical oncologist Dr. Kartik Konduri. "I believe that."

Konduri acknowledges that treatment for lung cancer is improving. But when it comes to the No. 1 cancer killer in America, attitude seems to more than meaningful.

"There are studies which have shown that qualify-of-life improvements result in improvement in survival for patients who have lung cancer - advanced lung cancer," Dr. Konduri said. "So a lot of our focus is also on improving their quality of life, their outlook."

Lung cancer causes more deaths than colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. According to the American Cancer Society, about 228,190 new lung cancer cases will be diagnosed this year. An estimated 159,480 patients will die.

The American Lung Association reports "the number of deaths among men has reached a plateau, but the number is still rising among women."

Valerie Harper was given a few months to live months ago. Joellyn Eubank should have been dead 11 years ago.

"I know when I look in the mirror that it's a miracle," Eubank said. "That I'm here, and not just, here but I'm living, you know?"

She has been on continuous treatment for 11 years, even participating in clinical trials. Three years ago, she became a founding member of a Dallas lung cancer support group.

And while she may not jitterbug, as Valerie Harper shortly will, Eubank knows that every day is a reason to dance.

You can see the premiere of Dancing with the Stars on Channel 8 Monday at 7 p.m. For information on the lung cancer support group, visit this link.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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