May 29, 2017
Dear beautiful friends. Hello. I'm so sorry to have been gone so long and to return with this news. I have breast cancer. I hope you cannot imagine having to utter those words or anything similar. I wonder if in time it will become easier. I have moments where I forget, where I'm just Jen, loving my life and finding the little joys and then in a moment of surreal clarity, I recall...I have cancer. But how can this be? Haven't I struggled enough in my life? Haven't I faced and overcome more than my share of adversity in the last 46 years? How can this be true? There is some self pity, of course. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by my own life story. Often as people get to know me and hear about my life, I see the horror reflected in their eyes. But it's all I know and this too is just part of my story. I have no choice but to accept it and move through this time with as much strength as I can muster. I've had lots of practice.
I have what is called DCIS, Ductal Carcinoma In Situ. It's the earliest form and I'm so thankful it was caught early, Stage 0 early, through my routine mammogram. It should have been a straight forward treatment of a lumpectomy followed by radiation. However, I tested positive for the BRCA2 gene which means I have a genetic predisposition especially for breast and ovarian cancer. This means my cancer very likely would come back so at the end of this month, I am scheduled for a double mastectomy with reconstruction. The full scope of my treatment won't be clear until after the surgery. They don't expect me to require chemo. I've learned through this process to expect the unexpected. This information means that the ovaries also have to be addressed and sooner rather than later. We are still gathering information on that piece of the puzzle. This might be a good time to tell you that I am very comfortable with the plan we have in place. I have done my due diligence on the subject. I don't buy a new microwave without doing a ton of research, so please assume I know what is best for my body. Also, please do not feel the need to share with me anything other than positive stories or encouragement. When I was recovering from the blood clot in my lung in 2015, I was constantly shocked by the number of people who felt the need to share stories of people they knew who died from a back ache that was actually a blood clot, etc. or who would say things to me like "I'm surprised you're alive". Really, truly if you don't know what to say, it's okay to say nothing.
Honestly when this first happened, I was looking ahead as the summer that cancer stole. I have since shifted my thinking and this summer I am looking forward to healing, to focusing on the quiet to come and the strength to be gained from winning a battle I never wanted to fight. I'm still here trying to find the positives, I just have to dig a little deeper for them.
I have had some very dark moments over the last month and a half, through multiple mammograms, biopsies, ultrasounds, imaging scans and so very much waiting. The waiting is the most stressful part of all of this so far. We have been hit by wave after wave of bad news and I have no idea what is still ahead but I do know this, I have the most supportive husband you can imagine, holding my hand every step of the way and so many lovely people lifting my spirits and offering help and kindness. And strength, I have that, although there are days when I feel like it has abandoned me, it always seems to come back.
I want to leave you with a little encouragement my friends, please, please be proactive about your health. Keep on top of your routine screenings. Do your breast exams, don't skip going to the doctor because you don't want to get on the scale or because you are embarrassed to talk about what's bothering you. Make your health your priority and never take it for granted.