A man in a beige suit jacket and matching pants navigated through a crowd of people, most of whom sported black “Wonder Woman” T-shirts, at Legends of Broadway in Hicksville. He clutched a photo in his right hand and halted when he spotted Millie Jones, 61, of East Meadow.
Conrad Lissade, a co-worker of Jones’s at the First National Bank of Long Island, greeted her and unveiled the photo. Its subject, he explained, was a relative who was fighting a rare blood cancer. Jones regarded the woman in the photo and gave Lissade a warm smile. “She could do it,” Jones said.
The people in the crowd at Legends of Broadway refer to Jones as their “Wonder Woman” because of her dedication to philanthropy and the East Meadow community, and her tenacity in fighting pancreatic cancer, which she was diagnosed with last March. On Jan. 15, she was surrounded by co-workers and members of the East Meadow community at a fundraiser to help pay part of her medical bills.
Jones is a past president of the East Meadow Chamber of Commerce, was voted a Nassau County Woman of Distinction in 2013, received the Silver Fox Award for her community service that year and has supported a number of local causes.
“This is the first time that she’s allowed that support to come back,” said her daughter Cassandra, 31, of East Meadow. “We’re already completely overwhelmed by the amount in donations because we’re not used to accepting help.”
Roughly 10 years ago, just after Jones turned 50, she fought and survived Stage Four breast cancer. While Cassandra said that pancreatic cancer is a different monster, her mother is persisting with the same goal — “to show others that you could fight.”
Jones receives integrated treatment at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Philadelphia. She sees 12 doctors and has undergone roughly 20 rounds of chemotherapy to attack a metastasized tumor on her pancreas and lesions on her liver.
But the fight is paying off: Her tumor has shrunk to half its original size and the lesions on her liver have cleared. She attributes her recovery to Cassandra, who vowed that her mother would be part of the 5 percent of pancreatic cancer patients who go into remission.
“If it weren’t for my daughter, I wouldn’t be alive today,” Jones said. Shortly after starting treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering, she passed out in her kitchen because her potassium levels were so low.
“That was the turning point,” she said, adding that Cassandra sought out integrated treatment at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and spent countless hours researching what diet is best for pancreatic cancer.
“We got her diet in order, we got a lot of the toxicity out of her life, and in July we found that some of the lesions on the liver have been clearing up and the tumor was smaller,” Cassandra said.
After a Jan. 17 appointment at the CTCA, Jones found that she was healthy enough to take chemotherapy in the form of a pill, as opposed to intravenously. If such treatment proves effective, she could be a candidate for a resection surgery to remove the tumor completely.
She said she was initially timid about holding a fundraiser, speaking with the Herald and making her story known. She agreed, however, to all three to demonstrate to those who are struggling with cancer, like Lissade’s relative, that recovery is possible. “If there’s somebody that I could reach out to and they get this message . . . I’m good,” she said.
At last week’s fundraiser, the Joneses raised $10,000, and through a website called You Caring, an additional $4,700 as of Jan. 23.