We’re 37. We’re young. Cancer isn’t an option.
Cancer does not discriminate.
This topic may seem a little “off topic” for my blog, but I’m OK with that. This is a powerful moment in time that I want to capture. If something inspires me, I feel it’s my job to share it with you. So if inspiration is the topic at hand, then no – maybe this isn’t so “off topic”.
My sheer intention with my blog is to inspire you, albeit home décor – inspiration is inspiration and it just happens to be a little different this time. Jenni has given me full permission to share her story with you – more of which you can read from her perspective on her blog titled Goodbye, Ugly Linda.
Now that we’ve got that established I want you to meet my beautiful friend, Jenni – before Ugly Linda took over her body (read her first blog post and that name will make sense)…
I met Jenni when I was 17 and I didn’t have female friends at the time. Girls were drama at that age and it’s something I realize I’ve never tolerated. I started dating my (now) husband when I was 15 and that became my life. I hung out with him and his friends, and at the time his best friend was dating a girl (Gelie) that introduced me to Jenni.
But, I wouldn’t become friends with Gelie and Jenni for a few years.
At age 21 I truly hung out with Gelie, Jenni and a new comer (Deanna) for the first time. They gave me my first “clubbing” experience (LOL) - and the rest is history. These are the girls that know my deepest darkest secrets and I can truly be myself around without fear of judgment. This is my tribe. The girls that will be with me till the end.
Up to that point in my life, I only dreamed of a sisterhood like that and now it was my reality.
Over the last 16 years we’ve experienced love, loss, we’ve traveled, some of us have had babies, some have gone through divorce, we’ve taken different career paths, experienced heartache, celebrated successes, taken a million photos and created enough memories to last a lifetime - but we still have so much left to experience.
THE DISCOVERY OF UGLY LINDA
I wasn't initially planning to go into this much detail, but I thought it was important to introduce you to Jenni and also share the timeline of events because it demonstrates how quickly life can change.
Our birthdays are 8 days apart and we're both pretty chill about celebrating, so we usually kill two birds with one stone and pick a day to celebrate both together. Exactly two weeks after we celebrated our 37th birthdays with wine tasting in Bisbee…
I vividly remember where I was when Jenni informed us she went to the doctor for a lingering cough that was likely bronchitis and they found an “enlarged lymph node” in her lung. It was being ruled as one of two things – Valley Fever or Lymphoma.
I was convinced it was Valley Fever. She’s too healthy to have cancer and that’s just not an option. She’d get the results, we’d all be relieved, she’d start on the antibiotics and her cough would be gone. No big deal.
Side note: At 5’1” she may be petite, but she’s a spitfire and a boss @$$ b!tch! There’s a reason she’s well respected in her profession at SheKnows Media – she gets sh*t done. Pardon my [censored] French, but just keepin’ it real. However, I could tell this shook Jenni to her core and it wasn’t anything to take lightly.
Her pulmonologist discovered the “enlarged lymph node” was actually a large tumor in her chest that Jenni, in true Jenni fashion, made light of and named Ugly Linda – no offense to any Linda’s out there. It just flowed.
FROM DIAGNOSIS TO CHEMO IN 3 DAYS
She would go through numerous tests and a lung biopsy that week to rule out cancer, because ruling it out was the ONLY option – we just needed confirmation. To keep things light and positive, she and her amazingly supportive and loving boyfriend decided to host a get together at their condo that weekend before the biopsy results came in.
Saturday, March 31st
The night of the get together, one week after she visited the doctor for bronchitis and two days earlier than she expected to hear the results she was diagnosed with Primary B-Cell Mediastinal Lymphoma, a rare form of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and would start an aggressive form of dose adjusted chemo on Tuesday. She would have to spend 4-5 days in the hospital with each round (6-8 rounds) hooked up to an IV. This approach was to avoid radiation which can cause heart problems down the road, because she is so young.
It wasn’t news I was expecting to hear that evening and set the mood for the night where Jenni had no shortage of love and support.
Tuesday, April 3rd
Jenni started chemo and was taking it like a champ! After 5 days in the hospital she finally got to go home and shortly after, her hair slowly began to thin and fall out. I was going to spend a Sunday with her and my clippers to take care of the hair situation.
Saturday, April 21st
She asked me to come take photos of her for her blog that Sunday, rather than the original plan of shaving her head, because she stopped into a salon on a whim to get it taken care of.
The text was accompanied by a photo of her freshly shaved head that literally took my breath away. She looked more beautiful and confident than ever. I was honored to be given the task of documenting this moment for her.
What I didn’t realize was how powerful that experience was going to be and is the reason for me writing this blog post today…
Sunday, April 22nd
This is a day that will be etched in my [terrible] memory forever. The day I saw a true, raw confidence in Jenni that I’ve NEVER seen in my 16 years of friendship with her. She’s always been a confident girl, but this time it was different. I knew she was a strong woman and this is the day I witnessed warrior status.
She was so positive and rocked the bald look better than Sinead - and with more confidence than I admittedly think I ever would. She had the best outlook on this whole situation and truly learned to love everything about her body because it was fighting so hard for her and taking chemo so well.
That’s not to say chemo hasn’t had it’s expected side effects and a few other lessons she learned along the way including self advocacy (again, all documented on her blog), but for the amount of chemo she was receiving she was doing surprisingly well.
Not to be cliché, but there is so much truth to a picture speaking a thousand words. I mean, just look at these…
I’ve never been so moved by taking photos in my life and in that moment my perspective changed.
Now, anytime I have a body shaming thought I remind myself how hard Jenni’s body is fighting for her and I remember that I am fortunate to have my health. My health is so much more important than worrying about the number on the scale, the size of my clothes, the stretch marks from carrying two healthy humans, the size of my thighs or any other ridiculous thoughts that enter my mind.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
You only get one body in this lifetime so make an effort to learn to TRULY love yourself because tomorrow is not promised, and to be quite honest – nobody is going to remember you for what you looked like (unless you walked the Victoria’s Secret runway). Is that what you really want to be remembered for anyway? My guess is, no. They are going to remember the person you were, how you treat people, how you live your life, and how much you ENJOYED life.
It’s never too late to make a change and the only person that can do that, is YOU.
UPDATE: Wednesday, June 13th
Jenni's tumor, Ugly Linda, is dead! Jenni still has to finish out the last two rounds of chemo but this is the best news she’s shared in months!!
If you or a loved one are dealing with cancer then I encourage you to read Jenni’s blog, Goodbye, Ugly Linda, for a real, raw, uplifting perspective on battling this ugly disease. Jenni took the worst, most scary time of her life and turned it into something positive and inspirational. She has proven what it means to be a true warrior.
Be well, friends.