Janet St. James, the former WFAA/Channel 8 medical reporter who left the station in March after 19 years, announced via Facebook late Thursday that she has invasive breast cancer.
“I am fierce and strong. But I have breast cancer,” she says in a post that includes “Details of how and when I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes.”
The post is accompanied by a brief video in which St. James says that she received the diagnosis on Good Friday — a week ago. She had just had a mammogram in November and had received a clean bill of health. She says that she will undergo a double mastectomy, and that will determine whether chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments are necessary.
You can watch the entire video below by clicking on the “I am fierce and strong. But I have breast cancer” link. We reached St. James by phone this morning for some additional comments, which are after the video.
St. James said she had a couple of reasons for taking the somewhat unusual step of telling people via Facebook.
“My goal has always been to help people,” she says. “At the end of my career at Channel 8, I really didn’t do any stories unless I thought there was a redeeming value to them, because I could and that’s the right thing to do. I always want to educate people, no matter what. So I did it for that reason.
“I also did it that way because social media races like lightning fire, and once somebody out there knew what was going on with me, I didn’t want them to be the first to post it, and have people that know and love me find out that way.”
By Friday morning, St. James’ post had received nearly 1,100 shares from followers and friends and had nearly 120,000 views.
“I’m surprised that there are so many people that have shared it, but I’m so glad to do whatever I can to bring attention to breast cancer,” St. James says. “For so many years, I’ve asked other people to share their stories, and I’m glad to do whatever I can do to share mine.”
She plans to post updates on her condition, but she doesn’t yet know how frequent they will be.
St. James left WFAA to become assistant vice president of strategic communication at HCA North Texas. She received the diagnosis the Friday before she was supposed to start the new job. Along with the social-media support, she has had plenty from her new employer.
“I’m so grateful because this is a very stressful time for me,” she says. “I’m in a new office, I don’t know anybody here, I didn’t know if my new employer would stand behind me, and that was stressful. They have been nothing but supportive. It came as — I can’t even tell you, it came as such an incredible relief to me — how grateful I am to HCA for standing by me.”
St. James says she’s not at Stage 1 (which would mean that the cancer hadn’t spread) and that she’s not at Stage 4 (which would mean that the cancer has spread to other areas of the body, such as the brain, bones, lung and liver) but that she’s somewhere in between.
With her years as a medical reporter, St. James is going into this with more information than many breast-cancer patients, but she says she still has much to learn.
“I’m definitely on the leading edge of the learning curve,” she says. “So there was a lot that I knew. I’ve had a longstanding relationship with my breast specialist, so I’m very confident going forward that I’m going in the right direction. But I’m learning a lot, and I’ve done a lot faster than most people because of what I know.”
But it will be a while before she knows more.
“Until they do the surgery, at this point, they don’t have a lot of information,” St. James said by phone. “I had a biopsy on the tumor and on my lymph nodes that they could tell were in trouble, and both of them were positive, so they know that it’s spread. But until they do the surgery, they can’t really stage it or anything.
“I wish I had more details for you,” St. James continues. “I wish I had more details for me.”