In 2018 I had noticed my menstrual cycle had changed. At first, I chalked it up to my age and possibly early menopause. Not liking going to the doctor, I began to google potential problems. The one I “self-diagnosed” myself with was endometriosis. It seemed to match all the symptoms I had and what was happening with my body. I put off going to the doctor for over a year. My friend, who shall remain nameless, was the office manager at an OB center and continued to nag me to come in. I said when school is over, I am not taking time off. Needless to say, it was nearly 18 months after that conversation that I went in. Multiple ultrasounds were done and then a biopsy. I cannot even tell you how upset I was at this point. Why did I wait so long? Why didn’t I just go? Why is this happening? My son began playing travel baseball and so I used his schedule as my excuse. I used teaching as my excuse. I used not liking to go to the doctor as my excuse. Ugh, I am full of excuses to avoid doctors.

I came back from an amazing road trip with my son and began the string of appointments. All while doing so, my son was invited by a teammate to go to VBS – Vacation Bible School. Why am I mentioning this? God works in mysterious ways. God only gives you what you can handle. God knows what he is doing. This was coming from my child who had begun VBS. Now, we begin to attend Church regularly (which we had not done in the past). I had also previously volunteered for an organization that helped families of children with cancer. As I went on with a normal day of summer, I left school after meeting my new principal and as I pulled out of the parking lot, my phone rang. It was the doctor’s office. “Hi, may I speak with Jennifer?” “This is she.” “We need to you to come to the office as soon as possible to see the doctor.” “Ok, I can be there is 4 minutes. I am down the road.” “Ok we’ll see you then.”

I knew at this point, my biopsy came back with cancer. Doctor’s do not ask you to come in asap just to say you’re good. So there I was in the office when I heard the “cancer” word. Time froze. Why me? What did I do to deserve this? I volunteer, I help others, why me? This was the million dollar question in my mind. How do I tell my husband? How do I tell my son? How do I tell my parents? Why, How, When? Oh my goodness. My husband was in disbelief. He said go to another doctor. He was angry, he was in denial, he was shocked. Now we had to tell our son. Howwwwwwww…….

This was the most difficult conversation I have had to have with my 9 year old to date. He took it like a champ. He immediately put his head down and started praying. He said, “Mom, God knew you were ready for this. He prepared you for the last 10 years. You know how? He had you doing work for children with cancer, he had you have me go to VBS, you answered his call to begin going to church again, you accepted him in your life. He’s got you mom!” Words of a 9 year old. Seriously, brought me to tears, but he was right. I got this; it doesn’t have me. The whole experience from getting a port put in to having such a reaction to chemo I nearly stopped breathing, to having the port out. My life only got better with time. Yes, I have to go to multiple doctor appointments more than I would like, but that’s ok. I have accepted their help and now understand the importance of going for my appointments. We all go through a lot of emotions when we get diagnosed, but it is what we do with that diagnosis that helps us get through. Once I figured out the “WHY,” I was able to move on. I continued to teach throughout my treatment. Yes, I missed the day when I had chemo and luckily my doctor had it timed, that if I had chemo on Wednesday, I didn’t “crash” until Friday afternoon, so I was able to make it through work.

My kiddos at school really kept me going. Life lessons learned by many including myself. Kids are brutally honest. “Where’s your hair?” “Why are you bald?” “She’s ugly bald, why would she do that to herself?” “You’re bald like my grandpa and I love him, so I love you.” I learned I cannot take it personally, but I also learned that these were teachable moments. No matter the age, kids know something is wrong, and they are not afraid to say it. I learned how to help 3 year old’s understand what was happening; I helped a girl who thought I was ugly understand why I am beautiful. I embraced the new me. I wore it proud and never let the cancer beat me. I had cancer, cancer did NOT have me! The journey was rough. It was no picnic going through chemo, but I was not going to lose out on my life to it. I found a way to push through it. I believe we can all benefit from positivity and strength.

Strength from within, strength from strangers and strength from those you never thought would provide it to you. Fight, don’t give up. We all have different stories and we all write our own stories.

How do you want your story to continue?