Jan Kilburn: A Patient Perspective

Jan Kilburn

Damariscotta, Maine

“If you need cancer treatment, I don’t know why you’d go anywhere else when you can go here.”

Jan Kilburn




In 2014 the Harold Alfond Center for Cancer Care (HACCC) diagnosed and consulted with more than 70 colorectal patients. Jan Kilburn was one of them.

With no family history, Jan both defies and defines this statistic. She had a lifetime record of good health; she was ac tive, social — busy creating and teaching watercolor classes in her welcoming Damariscotta ar t gallery.

Colon cancer didn’t fit into her schedule — and it didn’t care. A routine colonoscopy, admittedly put off for too long, revealed a cancerous mass. In an instant, Jan’s healthy, happy lifeboat was tossed into an ocean of uncer tainty. She and her husband, Tony, were shocked. Shock turned into determination — “One foot in front of the other,” Jan said — and eventually both turned into gratitude for incredible care.

“It didn’t occur to me to look to Augusta for care,” Jan said. “A friend encouraged me, saying, ‘If you’re going to go through this, you want to be in the best hands.’ And then she referred me to the best: the HACCC and Dr. Polkinghorn.”

Jan underwent two surgeries in Portland — the first to remove the original mass and a second after a larger, unanticipated recurrence some months later that perforated the colon wall and spread into nearby lymph nodes. The second surgery was followed by 12 rounds of chemotherapy at the HACCC, the last of which was just a couple weeks ago.

During a journey that’s “been scary and only gets scarier” for Jan, she and Tony are grateful for the silver lining of her cancer encounter.

“This is a reality that’s full of every kind of stress,” Tony said. “The cancer center and the caretakers there calm that stress. They gave Jan the confidence to relax and focus on healing — that’s priceless.”

As Jan and Tony wait for the test result confirming she’s in remission, they move forward, one foot in front of the other. They finish each other’s sentences from different rooms, joking about how their “move-in ready” home has been a perpetual renovation project; she praises him for his steadfast support and he chatters on about her Bangor, Maine resilience. She paints.

They make future plans that don’t include cancer.

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