Jen's Cancer Journey
“I feel like I’ve found purpose now that I’m a cancer survivor. I’ve found a deeper meaning because of what I went through, and find joy and purpose in sharing my journey to help others.”
Jen’s breast cancer journey began in June 2013 when she and her husband were going through infertility treatments in an effort to have a child. That October, she found a pea-sized lump in one of her breasts.
She immediately went to her OBGYN who scheduled a mammogram, a subsequent ultrasound and a biopsy on the small lump. She came in for her biopsy on November 4, 2013 and on November 7, she was diagnosed with Stage II BRCA2 breast cancer. The root of BRCA2 breast cancer is a genetic mutation which increases a risk of a woman having breast or ovarian cancer.
Jen went through seven rounds of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy in April 2014 with immediate reconstruction.
Jen was declared cancer-free in the spring of 2014. Looking back on her cancer journey, Jen says the emotional effects of cancer is talked about so infrequently but is so important, and knowing she wasn’t alone in her thoughts and feelings could have helped her immensely.
“When I was diagnosed, I was in such a fog,” Jen says. “I was so distraught and I know now that I had signs of depression, but I was too involved in my diagnosis to realize it. It hit me after my final reconstruction surgery and I didn’t know what to do next.”
After reconstruction, Jen started seeing a therapist who specializes in cancer survivor therapy, and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Her therapy sessions helped in her recovery, as she found triggers that made her sad, and was able to overcome those obstacles.
“It’s important for women to know that after you go through cancer, as confusing and as hard as it is to find your new normal, you have to,” says Jen. “Find joy in each day. Still, at the end of the day, I find the one thing that made me happy that day so that I go to bed with a positive mindset.”
Jen, along with a fellow survivor, created a project that helped her most of the day –the Pink Warrior Angels. Her non-profit company matches up those currently undergoing treatment, called warriors, with those who have completed treatment, called angels, to make sure everyone has someone to talk to.
“The angel commits to supporting their warrior all the way through her treatments and surgeries, whether it be through phone calls, emails, text messages or cards, just so that the warrior never feels alone,” Jen says. “This gives survivors a way to give back and they get huge gratification by knowing they can impact someone else’s life. We’ve even seen an angel help a warrior by simply dog-sitting while they were getting treatment.”
On top of her non-profit and personal recovery, Jen has also been a part of a cancer survivors’ camp where she first went as a camper and now returns as a counselor each year because of the impact it made on her and her healing.
“Besides my nurse navigator, I didn’t have a buddy to talk to, likely because of my young age of 33, who had been through breast cancer before, which is why I started Pink Warrior Angels,” Jen says. “What I’m doing now is not for me, I believe God gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers and he knew I would turn my pain into a purpose.”
Since becoming cancer-free, Jen has found freedom and happiness in places she never expected. Before cancer, she was afraid to fly, but now, one of her favorite hobbies is vacationing to new cities with her husband, like going on a spontaneous trip to New York for a concert and a Broadway show.
Because of the advice of her doctors, Jen is planning to have her ovaries removed which will shut the estrogen supply to her body down and help reduce the risk of ovarian cancer. After defeating cancer, going through menopause at 36 she says will be her newest challenge.