Jennifer Hancock, from Carl Junction, Missouri is April’s Extreme Medical Bill Makeover Recipient.
Jennifer will receive a check from Cells for Cells for $1000 to spend as she needs as she battles cancer and will receive $1000 in services/consulting from Your Wellness Connection in Shawnee, Kansas.
Here’s her story:
At age 25, I went from “bad hair days” to “no hair days”. Thinking that losing my hair would be the hardest step for me as a young woman with cancer, I soon figured out that it wasn’t – the hardest step was going to be the life-long fight I had in front of me.
On January 18, 2006, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I was in total shock. I had hardly ever had the flu, common cold, or any other illness. I seemed perfectly healthy. That day was hard to absorb all the information the doctors had given me. The main thing that kept running through my head was how I was going to tell my mother…
…it was her birthday.
Being a mother myself to my son (who was four at that time), I knew the bond a mother and father has with their children. I knew I’d have to stay strong and up-beat so they would be also. My oncologist told me that Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is 90% curable so the chances of a full remission were in my favor. My positive attitude was based off this hope that I would indeed beat cancer and not ever have to look back. My strong will and determination to resume my “normal” everyday routine; work full time at my job I’ve currently been at for six years and continue to raise my son (who’s in first grade now), I believed helped my family, friends, & co-workers cope with all the other changes I was facing.
After my first full cycle of chemotherapy, I relapsed within a couple months.
I then proceeded with another full cycle of a different combination of chemotherapy which also left me in relapse after a few months.
Every time my cancer was back I knew because I would gain water retention. The water gain would max out at about sixty pounds. This would wear me out. Just imagine walking with sixty pounds of weights on you everyday, all day. I had also hurt my knee in the meantime so I was on crutches.
Let’s just say I was miserable.
The doctors then decided that I may be in the 10% of Hodgkin’s patients that may not be able to be cured. We then prepared for an autologous stem cell transplant. They said if I could be in remission before I start the transplant, that I would have a much better chance of a longer remission. So I was then hospitalized for a cycle of heavy chemotherapy.
I ended up having a rare reaction to one of the medicines. I woke up in a daze not knowing what day it was or what was going on. I remember occasionally just laughing hysterically for no reason and then returning to sleep. The nurses had to wake me up every couple hours to make sure I didn’t fall into a coma. My doctor finally got this rare reaction reversed and I mentally turned back to my normal self. I have to say it was very scary.
I joke about it now and tell my mom if that ever happens again to make sure to turn the television off because every time an infomercial came on (due to the state of mind I was in) I kept thinking I had to buy whatever it was they were selling. Thank goodness I didn’t know where my bank card was or I would have ended up with vacuums, mops, jewelry, and every exercise machine you could think of! Ha ha..
After this chemo, my P.E.T. scan showed that I was not in total remission, but I would have to proceed with the stem-cell transplant anyways and pray that it would be a success. After many trips to St. Louis for pherisis (the process where they collect my own stem-cells and freeze them to prepare for the transplant), I finally was hospitalized for a month in St. Louis to under go the transplant.
I had never felt so ill and so drained in my life. I was released to go home, and after two days of being home, I dragged myself to work. I was still nauseated and so ill.
Missing work for a month, and all the other days I had missed for the preparation of the transplant really put a number on my finances. I did the best I could at work and still managed to get my son to school on time.
As time went by, I started feeling better and regaining some energy. I had gone four months in remission. I was ecstatic. I was starting to feel like my “normal” self again. That was longest I had ever been in remission.
That was all changed after another scan showed the cancer was throughout my whole body again.
I am currently participating in a research provided through Washington University / Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. I travel there once a month, sometimes a little more, to refill my prescription. The pill I’m on is hopefully to keep the cancer under control. I will always have Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, but the main thing now is just to keep it from spreading.
Two co-workers of mine were recently diagnosed with different forms of cancer. I believe my continuous upbeat attitude may have helped them to stay positive and to understand that it’s easier to cope with the changes depending on how you deal your situation. I hope that I’ve been a positive impact on cancer patients and others. I got the chance to talk to a girl a few years younger than me and give her tips on getting used to wigs and what to expect.
Wigs have their pro’s and con’s, but I’ve come to find out a “no hair day” with a wig, can be better than a “bad hair day”!
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”