Today's blog is different. Today I want to tell you about someone very special to me who is fighting a great battle. I am choosing to blog about this in an effort to get as many prayer warriors as possible both that know us personally, and those who don't. I believe in the power of prayer. And if I can get just one more person praying for her in this journey, then this will be worth it.
She goes by Jennifer... Jfer... JJ... Jen. She snorts when she laughs. She can dance with the best of them. She hates being called Jenny. She's my father's wife. My sister's Mother. My Step Mother. My Friend.
Jen came into my life when I was 12 going on 13. I was about the same age as my youngest sister Olivia is now. Like most teenagers, I was leery of this young and beautiful new person in our lives. I was very protective of my Mother at that age and worried Dad would forget about Ashley and I (something now I know would never happen). Her and my Dad went on to marry when I was 15 or 16 and my snotty teenage attitude for the most part continued. They had my little sister Olivia when I was 17 and shortly after I was off to college. I loved JJ, but I wouldn't say we were super close. Over the next 5 years, her and my Dad and little Liv came to a lot of my basketball games and were always very supportive. Holidays were always my favorite time with all of us.
Something changed when I graduated. It was probably my age. I'm not sure. But Jen and I started to become friends. And good ones. We didn't always agree on all things but what fun would that be!? My now husband and I, and her and my Dad, and often times little sisters started doing a lot of things together. Concerts, nights out, trips to Florida, bonfires. So many memories over the last 8 years with my sisters and Dad and Jen that I am forever thankful for.
Summer 2013, Jen was complaining about feeling tired. She told me several times that summer she needed to get some blood work done because something felt out of balance. On August 5th, 2013 my Dad called saying that Jen had a horrific headache and they had come to the emergency room. With a trembling voice my Dad said, "I think Jen has cancer Manda."
Cancer....Cancer....Cancer....Cancer.....Cancer.....that's all that replayed in my head. And worse, brain cancer. I remember falling to my knees and praying by my bed. Nick was trying to be so strong for me and he was. But it broke his heart too. I found him leaning over the kitchen counter with tears down his face. Him and I have been together nearly 8 years, so Jennifer is just as much his step Mom and friend too.
A few tests and a biopsy later....Doctors told us Jennifer, at 41 years old, had Grade 4 Glioblastoma Multiforme, an aggressive type of brain cancer typically found in men over 50. How could this be happening? Jen was in amazing shape? She ate healthy? She was young?
I'll tell you this though. I was never angry. I know that makes no sense..because even I thought I would be. I was sad and confused and didn't understand it but I didn't feel anger. I trusted what God's plan was and after the initial shock I was ready to help Jen be the superwoman I knew she could be.
That was 14 months ago. Jen has endured steroids, radiation, chemotherapy, lost her hair, grew it back, and experienced the largest emotional roller coaster one can wrap their head around. Up until recently things seemed to be going really well. A few weeks ago she began to lose the ability to speak, and she was no longer able to walk alone. Yesterday an MRI revealed that the cancer has progressed. She is no longer treating.
But we have not been defeated.
Dad and Jen leave for Houston on Monday to see the best doctors in the country who specialize in brain cancer. A little getaway for them too for both my Dad's birthday and their wedding anniversary both on October 16th.
The POWER OF PRAYER is real. Please pray. Pray for strength. Pray for a safe trip to Houston. Pray that the doctors are able to help us. Pray that we trust this journey at every turn and do not become angry. Pray for my Dad and Olivia who have remained so strong for her through all of this. And for her Mother Vicki who hasn't left her side. Pray for her Dad Harve, and brother Scott. They are heroes. Pray. Pray. Pray.
I want to end by giving a big ol' shout out to Cancer. Not the good kind. But just something to get it's attention. And not just for Jen, but for people everywhere who fight this disease in any form. YOU CANNOT WIN. You may take the ability to speak, or walk. You can make our hair fall out. You can cause sadness and heartache and tears. You may even take the people we love. But you will never win. Our faith will beat you every time. We will still laugh in your midst. We will still make beautiful memories that you cannot take from us. We will continue to fight.
Go get em this week in Houston JJ. I love you.