High Risk, Family History and a Proactive Cancer Treatment Plan

Breast cancer…do those ugly, scary words run in your family? Have you seen firsthand the devastation that it can bring because it was your mom, grandma or sister?  Knowing the risk is high due to family history, would you be willing to take extreme measures to eliminate the possibility of getting cancer?

This story is about just that.  A courageous, bold decision by a loving wife and mom who refused to let her looming family history of cancer destroy her future.

Who is this Amazingly Brave Woman?

First and foremost, Jennifer is a Christian, wife and homeschooling mom.  Recently, celebrating 16 years of marriage, she and her husband adore their two boys.  Her passion is teaching, and she has a master’s degree in Early Childhood Development.  Mercy and helps are her spiritual gifts, and it makes her heart happy to see others be successful.  Recently, she started a blog called: The Happy Teacher Mama- The Calling of an Educator, The Heart of a Mom.

Family History of Cancer

When Jennifer was 12 years old she watched her aunt (who lived with their family) die from breast cancer.  It had a profound impact on Jennifer and she started fearing the loss of her parents which ultimately led to panic attacks.  In order to heal, Jennifer sought counseling.  Just a few years later, Jennifer’s grandmother was hit with fatal colon cancer.   Watching her mother care for her dying grandmother as her father worked caused Jennifer to grow-up quickly. Often, she took care of her younger brother to help out.  Family values grew deep roots in her heart and she learned that family takes care of family.

Fast Forward a Few Years

Jennifer graduated high school and met her soon-to-be husband.  She headed to college to become a teacher.  However, the trauma of seeing her aunt and grandma die from cancer still lingered in her heart.  Then, her mother received a devastating diagnosis…ovarian cancer stage 2C.  It was shocking because her mother didn’t have any symptoms and it was in a routine OB/GYN appointment that the doctors discovered it was cancer.

The Risk of Getting Cancer Increased

Her mother had exploratory surgery and went through chemotherapy treatment.  Panic attacks returned…whenever Jennifer saw her mom throw-up (a typical side-affect of chemo), she feared death.  She knew she had to be strong for her mother, and she persevered through the fear.  Her mother survived and recovered from ovarian cancer.  Life returned to normal once again.

Three years later Jennifer got married and she was really happy.  Then news came again that her mother had cancer, but this time it was breast cancer.  Not wanting to take any chances her mother elected to have a double mastectomy.

Identified by Doctors as High Risk for Cancer

From that point on, her mother’s surgeon was very adamant that Jennifer be seen every six months.  With the family history, the probability was high that Jennifer would be a breast/ovarian cancer victim too.

Routine Mammograms Began in Her 20’s  

During one mammogram, the doctors thought they saw a lump.  While it ended up being benign, Jennifer felt like the Lord was answering her prayers.  Previously, the doctors had discussed taking a proactive approach: performing a double mastectomy and removing her uterus before cancer could have a chance to attack.  Jennifer wanted to have children so she delayed that decision. Fast forward a few years and now she had 2 boys. More children were her desire…but, she also felt like cancer was a ticking time bomb in her body.  She sought the Lord in prayer.  And when the lump came back as just a big scare…she knew in her heart it was time to take extreme preventative measures to ensure she would be there to raise her two boys.

 “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

With strength beyond her own…at Age 29 with two boys ages 3 and 1…this brave woman had a preventative double mastectomy.  Two months later she had a hysterectomy.  Then, two more reconstructive surgeries to follow.  It took nearly 12 months to complete the process.  There was intense physical pain and emotional turmoil.

“It was my laser focus- do this now and avoid cancer later that kept me moving forward.”  Jennifer H. 

The Difficulties She Faced 

The entire process was physically painful and emotionally draining.  Her heart grieved for her young boys.  There were many days she could not hold them close or pick them up.  While her mother stayed and helped her often, Jennifer’s husband had to shoulder the majority of the load including working, taking care of the kids, and house cleaning.  Feelings of helplessness visited often…Jennifer just wanted to be useful and care for her family.  There were dark days and her attitude wasn’t always good.  On those days, she was thankful for family and friends who prayed for her and supported her.

“It is dark, but there is light at the end of tunnel.”  Jennifer H.

God was Her Comfort and Strength

Through it all, God was there comforting her, supporting and providing for her needs.  During her time of healing, God worked in Jennifer’s heart, and He gave her understanding and compassion for others she would not have had otherwise.  A new ministry was being birthed.

Words of Wisdom from a Cancer Warrior!

If you are going through a similar situation, Jennifer would like you to know you are not alone.  Yes, there will be very difficult days ahead, but she doesn’t regret doing everything in her power to be here to raise her kids.  Here are a few words of advice:

  • Find someone who has gone through what you are going through.  There is tremendous strength is leaning on one who has experienced it too.
  • Look for a confidant outside of your immediate family with a strong faith in Christ.  You are going to need that.
  • Refuse to feel guilty for what you cannot do. Rather be thankful and adopt an attitude of gratitude.
  • Let go of your pride and accept help from others.
  • It is ok to say no.  Respect your limitations.

For more on Jennifer’s journey please visit her blog.  It’s her God-given mission to help others by sharing her story.  The decision to have proactive surgery was difficult and the 12-month journey had many challenges, but she would not go back and change a thing. She is more thankful and grateful than ever. Joy is what she has…raising her boys, loving her husband and sharing with others.  

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Please share Jennifer’s story.  There are other women contemplating what they should do in a similar situation.  Please comment too.  Jennifer and I would love to hear from you.

Find Your Brave Today,

JJ

#FindYourBrave

PS: Is it time for your mammogram?

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