Jenny and James's Story
Jenny was diagnosed with appendix cancer in 2014 when she was 29 years old. “It’s a very rare type of cancer – about 10 patients per million people – and it’s difficult to treat,” Jenny explained.
She was having severe pains in her abdomen that eventually caused her to go to the emergency room, where they said she had an infection. Two weeks later, the pain worsened, and Jenny was scheduled for an appendectomy. During surgery, a tumor was discovered and what was supposed to have been a one-hour procedure lasted six hours.
Unfortunately, cancer continued to return. With each diagnosis, there have been new treatments, complications, side effects, clinical trials, and even a trip to Australia for a treatment that has not been approved in the U.S.
“By 2017, I had undergone three horrible open abdominal surgeries, lost almost all of my non-essential organs in my belly, gone through horrible chemotherapy, and when we heard the words ‘your cancer is back’ for the third time, my mind kind of ruptured,” Jenny said. “I felt so lost. I felt so helpless against this disease that just kept coming back no matter what we did and all the torture I went through.
“I am so lucky to have a spouse who didn’t shy away from such an intimidating diagnosis,” Jenny says of James. “Caregivers do so much more than people realize. He has been here for me every single step of the way, whether it’s been to help me shower, give me medicine, or just give me a long hug while I cry. We are a unit of one and sought help together.”
“I found Cancer Support Community online, and it was exactly what I was looking for. With encouragement, I have learned to be my own advocate and take a more active role in my cancer treatments and decisions. I went from feeling completely powerless to taking back some of that power and control.
“For the first time, I felt like I had a choice in my care. I felt that although I couldn’t control my cancer, I could learn how to live with it better and more fully. Despite what is happening to me, I can still strive to have a good life.”
Jenny and James have been attending the Metastatic Support Group meetings for four years. “Although I am the only one with appendix cancer, I learned that patients with other kinds of metastatic cancers can truly empathize with me and help keep me grounded.” James has found similar encouragement in the Caregiver Support group. “The sessions teach people how to take care of themselves, so they’re able to take care of the cancer survivor,” explained James. “Being a caregiver is life-changing. I’ve learned so much on this journey with Jenny from a caregiver’s perspective. One thing is, don’t sweat the small stuff. I used to be so worried about little things; they really have no bearing when dealing with cancer. Control what you can and leave the rest behind.”
In August, Jenny had to have her gallbladder removed. This time it wasn’t because of cancer, but having had so many abdominal surgeries due to cancer made this operation harder, resulting in a longer recovery time. Jenny has another major surgery scheduled in October for a long-running complication of her surgery in March to improve her quality of life.
“I couldn’t imagine my life – or my fight with cancer – without having Cancer Support Community, Angie, or the others in Metastatic group to turn to,” offered Jenny. “I can be completely honest with them in a safe space where I truly feel like I have a voice and that my life, my fight, and my story matter to others.”
“One thing cancer has taught me is that true love is incredibly resilient,” said Jenny. “It has taught me that compassion and empathy DO exist. It has taught me that some arguments aren’t worth having and that sometimes, support can come from the most unexpected of places.”
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