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Jen has been nominated by Patti Parker-Phillips (our 2010 CelebrateSurvivor Winner) . . .
When Jen was in 11th grade her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. At a young age she became aware of the realities of breast cancer when her mother had to have a radical mastectomy and went through chemotherapy and radiation. Because of this Jen understood her own risk and knew she would have to be careful and attentive to her own body and at 30 started having mammograms.
She decided on a career path in health and fitness. She chose early on to eats, live and practice HEALTHY lifestyle choices– doing the things that literature and research said helps keep cancer away…
Yet this was not the case with my beautiful friend. Her mammograms came back clear at first, then she gained 50+ lbs within a few months time and knew something was really wrong so she went to the endocrinologist to find out that every single hormone n her body was out of whack so they started her on all sorts of different medications. The weight remained and nothing seemed to help! This went on for a while then in March of 2008 she went to a new endocrinologist who knowing her mom’s history with breast cancer put her on a drug for prolactin levels – trying to get a handle on all of this. During this time she found out her mother’s cancer had returned. Jen’s plan was to go back home to WV and see her in July. But on June 6th 2008 she woke up and saw significant visual changes in her breasts. This prompted a call to her OB/GYN who immediately ordered a diagnostic mammogram & ultra sound. The results came back confirming a breast cancer diagnosis for Jen. In July she had a double mastectomy the tumor the Dr. removed was 7.5 cm and was found to have spread to lymph nodes in her neck. Never did Jen imagine she and her mother would have to be fighting this battle at the same time.
Chemotherapy began in August of 2008 and Jen stepped up her research of the hormone fed cancer she had and got rid of over $400 worth of beauty products, switched to all organic makeup, body wash, shampoo etc… Started eating cleaner and in 3 months lost most of the weight. She also worked out diligently throughout her chemotherapy and credits her lifestyle and activity with eliminating the horrible side effects of chemotherapy, well all those except for the hair loss. Radiation followed and when it was finished she was officially in ‘remission’. Unfortunately a January 2010 PET scan showed the cancer had not only come back but come back with a vengeance. It had spread toher bones and all the lymph nodes in my neck & chest wall were involved. Chemo time again coupled with more research and additional healthy lifestyle changes, she gave up all meat except for seafood, ALL processed foods and the only sugars she had were those in fruit because the body can process these and they are ok. Her thought being “if God made it you can eat it, if man made it don’t eat it”! Again she worked out religiously and did not suffer the often debilitating side effect from chemotherapy other than hair loss!
Her 2nd round of treatment and battle #2 ended in May of 2010 and she was officially put back in ‘remission’. She also chose to have a hysterectomy after confirming that she did have the BRCA gene which shows a predisposition to breast and other female cancers. She became actively engaged in helping survivors and those going through treatment to understand food, supplements and healthy lifestyle choices using her first hand knowledge of the disease and her education and experience in the health and fitness field to try to help others get through the difficulty of treatment and recovery. Unexpectedly on June 29, 2011 a progressive ‘off’ feeling manifested itself in a sudden extreme illness and Jen ended up in the ICU for over a week when pneumonia caused her left lung to collapse and her right lung to be so full of fluid that only a ¼ of it was working. Chest tubes were put in and unfortunately cancer cells were found in the fluid they removed from her lung. For the 3rd time in 3 years cancer had invaded her life.
Jen continues to amaze and astound me with her fighting spirit and her winning attitude. She chose not to have reconstruction and instead enjoys the freedom to be ‘any size’ she wants depending on her mood and her activities. She jokes about being the first ‘boobless’ stripper and believes that breast or the lack thereof do not define her as a woman.
Sadly Jennifer’s mother lost her battle with breast cancer on October 8th of this year. Jen and her husband chose to move her father to Arizona not wanting him to be alone and not want him to remain in West Virginia and be so far away from them. She and her husband have also suffered the loss of her grandfather in June and his husband’s grandfather in July. 2011 has not been kind.
On October 25th Jen went in to see her oncologist with the hope that she would be getting the last round of chemo for her most recent recurrence and was instead told that her cancer has progressed and they would need to change her treatment. So much for one so young! This woman has battled breast cancer more times than any person should have to. It has taken so much away from her. But she maintains her desire to help others, deals with her treatments exuding grace and composure through it all. She refuses to let cancer win and does not let it get her down.
I have met many amazing woman in the past 3 years that I have been on this journey and this woman is one in a million and would make an excellent 2011 Celebrate Survivor winner….