Jean Tasker is the wife of Mark Tasker of 25 years, mother of two amazing young men Hunter and Evan, and has been a resident of Estes Park for almost 30 years. She has worked at the Bank of Estes Park in the Operations Department for 20 years. Jean has thoroughly enjoyed volunteering in the Estes Park community through various sports teams, including the wrestling and baseball teams, as well as the Bobcat Booster Club, the Estes Park FFA Chapter and the Rooftop Rodeo. In April of 2021, Jean was diagnosed with stage 2B Invasive Mammary Carcinoma, with HER2+ and HER2- proteins, Triple Negative Breast Cancer. With the help, trusted knowledge, and confidence of her Oncology team at the UC Health Cancer Center in Fort Collins, Jean’s fight against cancer began swiftly and aggressively from day one.
Jean had her first chemotherapy treatment just 28 days after she found a lump in her breast; something that most likely saved her life, given that she was halfway between her annual mammograms. Her tumor was growing rapidly, and the cancer was spreading very quickly in just the first couple weeks of tests, biopsies and scans. The cancer team knew that they needed to devise a plan of attack quickly and they needed to get after it with both barrels loaded. Jean’s treatment plan included two different equally aggressive chemotherapies that were given back-to-back weekly and lasted a total of five months. She is also on a HER2+ / HER2- antibody infusion treatments that began in June 2021 and will continue through June of this year.
After completing the final round of chemo in September, Jean’s initial scans showed there was no cancer left- the treatment worked! In October, Jean underwent a lumpectomy that also included the removal of seven lymph nodes. Through pathology, it was later confirmed there were no cancer cells left! Because Jean had such an aggressive form of cancer, she completed six weeks of radiation daily from December to January to be sure that there were no surviving cancer cells. Her next round of tests and scans will be in July after completing her antibody treatment. So far things are looking great! All the hard work and dedication made by the doctors and scientists is paying off, making the pain and exhaustion of treatment worth it.
Despite the amazing results that Jean has experienced so far, cancer is a scary word. It brings pause to everything else in life and has a proclivity of instilling fear. This deep fear of the unknown, effects not only the patient, but everyone in their lives including family, friends, and coworkers. Cancer brings a whirlwind of tests and appointments, and more tests with different doctors, and more appointments; each causing more anxiety than the last. From the start, a cancer diagnosis is immediately, and deeply overwhelming. Every step leading to treatment is scarier than the preceding one, and all one can do is hope and try to remain positive.
Mark and Jean believe the oncology doctors and nurses at the UC Health Cancer Center are true angels and heroes in every sense. Not only are they the best in their field at fighting cancer, but they are kind, compassionate, caring, uplifting and full of positivity and hope. Through seeing, hearing and feeling that sense of positivity and hope from the oncology team, and also from their devoted family and friends, Mark and Jean were able to stay strong and keep their heads held high as they marched into this battle together.
Knowing that she was not alone in the fight gave Jean strength through the entire journey from day one. Not only has she had an outpouring of love and support from friends and family, but she also began to realize that she is not the only one who has had cancer. Jean has never felt pity for herself or asked, “why me?” She draws strength mentally, emotionally, and physically knowing there are other men and women fighting this same fight. Spiritually, she has thought about children that are fighting their own battles against cancer, and how unfair that is and must seem to them and their parents and families. By keeping the millions of other cancer patients in her mind and heart, Jean kept going every day, through each treatment and everything that came with those treatments. She would tell herself, “if they can do it, I can do it. And I have to fight for those who have lost their fight.” This was Jean’s daily mantra. Her husband Mark would also provide wisdom, encouragement, and support; “we can’t finish unless we start. The only way out is through.”
Mark and Jean are extremely grateful for the love, support and kindness of their friends and family and coworkers. From the help with meals, housecleaning, rides, advice, flowers and sweet notes and cards, texts, memes and Dad jokes, to the friends that showed up to help build a new deck ahead of a Spring snowstorm, and all of the shoulders to lean on, they are beyond thankful to have such gracious and generous friends in their lives. Cancer effects everyone, whether they have had it or not. When it comes into your life, in whatever form, it affects you emotionally, spiritually, philosophically, and in countless other ways. Mark and Jean truly feel that they could not have gotten through this difficult time without such amazing people surrounding them and enriching their lives.
Jean’s battle with cancer has made her think about her next opportunity to volunteer. She is interested in exploring how she can help other cancer patients navigate their battle and find ways to help make their lives a little easier through their journey. One of these opportunities is through a non-profit organization in both Larimer and Weld County called Hope Lives. They offer FREE HELP with meals, rides, housecleaning, wigs and other supportive services to women currently in Breast Cancer treatment.
Mark and Jean would like to remind anyone that is facing a hardship in their life, of whatever kind, that there is always sunshine behind the clouds. There is always hope!