I met Jennifer while working at LifeCare Solutions in San Diego. Here is her story…
Tell us your story / stats:
I was DX 6 days after my 35th birthday and just having my 3rd child who was 3 months old. At the time, I had my older daughter Leilani who was 7, my son Luke who was 5 and my 3 month old Larissa. I was breastfeeding and thought it was a clogged milk duct. When my lump grew from the size of a quarter to a golf ball in one week, I knew something was not right. I went back to my OBGYN and he sent me in right away to get a biopsy done. I got the call 3 days later that is was breast cancer. I was a triple negative and was at stage 3. I met my surgeon and met with my oncologist and 2 weeks later I had a double mastectomy. My doctors were very fast and just within that time, my mass grew to the size of a softball and consumed my whole right breast. I was told I could have a 50/50 chance of getting it in the other side. With just having a new baby and 2 toddlers, I was going to do what ever it took. I went through 6 rounds of chemo and 8 weeks of radiation. For the next two years, I went through 8 different surgeries, a partial hysterectomy and reconstructions of my breast. I had a purpose, to fight for my husband and kids. I wanted to see my kids grow and not miss out on anything. For my new baby to know her mom. I am happy to say I will be 10 years cancer free this year. My oldest started college, my son is a JR in high school and my baby Larissa is in 5th grade and knows her mommy. My husband and I will be celebrating 19 years of marriage. I am so thankful for every day.
C aside, tell us about yourself. What makes you, YOU!
I feel I am a good person and I love my family and friends.
What went through your head when you were first diagnosed?
How was I going to sit down and tell my kids and husband. That was one of the hardest things, when my kids asked if I was going to die. What was my husband going to do? Would he stay or leave me? We were so young and I was just so scared.
What are some of your personal coping skills during difficult times?
My shower was my safe zone for crying and just having my own pity party. Then when I would get out and I would put my strong face on again for my family.
Tell us about your support system. Or lack of.
I was so very lucky to have a huge support system. My husband and even my older two kids really stepped up so much to help me when I needed anything. My parents, sister, brother, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, in-laws, sister in laws, brother in laws and my friends. The week I would have my chemo, Larissa was shared by so many friends and family so I could rest and Che could go to work. We were truly blessed with the support, even from co-workers at my work and my husband’s work. It was truly amazing. I still get choked up about it.
What have you learned about yourself since dx?
That I am stronger than I thought.
What do you believe is a common misconception about being diagnosed? Or something that you’d like the general population to know about C.
That even though you might have won the battle, you will never be the same person again. It does change you and your body forever. I think that was a big thing for me. I would get told that a lot.
Thoughts on the pink…
I did the Susan G Komen 3 day and have donated to that cause and to American Cancer society because I have lost many friends and family to other cancers. I wear my pink with pride and there is something about the bond you have with other survivors.
Where are you at in life now? Mentally, physically, emotionally…
I am at a wonderful place. I have been here for many milestones that I was so afraid I would miss.
Do you have any lasting side effects- mental, physical, etc.?
I have some of both mental and physical but I just push through it.
Have you noticed any lasting effects on your families and friends?
There are but my family and friends know that life is hard and after what they went through on this journey with me, they don’t complain much. Lol
If you could send a message to yourself from 10 years ago… how would that go?
That you will be ok and you will be challenged but are a strong lady.
What are you passionate about? Is this different than what you were passionate about before dx?
I have always been passionate about being present with my kids and husband. I want my kids to know they can always count on me. I feel that way to all the people close to me in my life.
Do you have a favorite quote, mantra, phrase, or curse word?
Life is one day at a time.
Whenever the day comes to travel to the “great beyond”, what do you hope people remember about you?
That I loved everyone and I loved to have fun. I was a good person and to drink a beer. I always told them no crying, just celebrate and pour one for the homie..lol
Would you like to share one of your shittiest moments/memories? The raw side of C.
I had three that I will never forget. My first one was after I came home from my double Mastectomy and it was 2-3 days after, when it was time to change my bandage. I was so scared to see it, so my husband Che and I decided we would lock our bedroom door and him and I would do it together. When that bandage came off we both cried together.
My second was right after my first chemo treatment. Your hair falls out pretty fast and so again I told Che “ok, get the older kids and your clippers and let’s shave my head.”
My third one was I wanted to stop my chemo treatments about my 3rd one in. I was getting sicker and weaker after each one and I could see my husband was just so worried. He had stayed home one day and we had this long talk because I was not sure what he was thinking or feeling. I think people forget and, even us that are going through this tuff time, that your spouse is feeling and going through it with you. Then he opened up about how he felt helpless because he wanted to fix me and have me better.
What’s the latest happenings in your life now?
Life is good and busy with my family. I feel very blessed.
If people take away anything from your story, it would be…
To never give up. We are stronger than we might think.