My Sister Jenny

This story is about my sister Jenny Higley Lynch. Jenny is a 31-year-old mom who loves her family, the outdoors and making people laugh. In 2005 Jenny was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme, an aggressive brain tumor. The prognosis was not good. The doctors told Jenny that she would have less than 2 years to live. Although she was 4 months pregnant at the time, Jenny underwent brain surgery to remove the tumor and immediately began radiotherapy. Five months later, following the birth of her beautiful daughter, Phoenix, she began oral chemotherapy.

It has been more than two years since Jenny's diagnosis. Our family was optimistic since her health seemed to be surprisingly good. She wasn't too sick from the chemotherapy and she was even working again.It was a horrible blow when, after an MRI in July of 2007, we found out the cancer was spreading to other areas of the brain. We were unable to understand how she could seem to be doing so well, but still be so sick. We rallied our hopes and Jenny and her oncologist came up with a new game plan. They decided to have an Omaya reservoir implanted. This device is surgically inserted under the scalp for direct injection of chemotherapy throughout the spinal fluid. This surgery left her in pain and made her very sick for a couple of weeks, but she came through it and began the chemotherapy.

Almost a month later, in October of 2007, Jenny became extremely ill and was taken to the hospital where she was diagnosed with Spinal Meningitis. This illness took a huge toll on her and her family. Not only was it physically devistating, but it was an emotional roller coaster. She was put in a hospital in Salt Lake City which is about 60 minutes from Farr West where she lives. This made visitation, child-care and work for her husband, Ernie, and our mother a logistical nightmare. Jenny had to endure 3 or 4 surgeries (we lost count) to relieve intracranial pressure and to insert and remove shunts and drains. Finally, extremely weak and unwell, Jenny was discharged and sent home. She had less than a month to recuperate before the next phase hit.

On December 21 Jenny got another infection in her spinal fluid which caused a lot swelling in the area around brain. She was taken to the University hospital in Salt Lake City again. Within a matter of hours she lost all ability to speak and many of her motor functions. She was in the University of Utah Hospital for 4 weeks, where she battled infection, endured more surgeries and tried to get well. After this she was moved to Salt Lake Regional Medical center where she had 3 weeks of physical, speach and occupational therapies and more antibiotics.

Thankfully, Jenny is home now and in the care of family and friends. Although she seems peaceful, she has sustained considerable brain damage and needs 24-hour care. She cannot perform most every-day functions without a lot of assistance. Speach is minimal and somewhat confused, and we don't know how damaged her thought processes are. She has a hard time concentrating and understanding problems and she cannot yet walk on her own. Most of her time is spent sleeping, watching TV or watching her surroundings.

My dear sister is not the same active person I know and love. I don't know if she will ever fully recover. My family is in a waiting game. Ideally, Jenny will recover and be able to resume her chemotherapy. Meanwhile, her family is faced with a single insurance carrier that doesn't completely pay for all the care she has undergone this far, let alone the care she needs now. The cost for her hospital time alone is astronomical. There are two young daughters and a husband to consider.Our hope is that people whose lives Jenny has touched can help. Every dollar you give will go to provide Jenny care and her family support. Perhaps more important, it will provide Jen's family some of the hope they need to get through this difficult time. We know that God has a plan for Jenny and we are trusting in him. We know that he will bless you for your donation.Thank you.
by Heather Chamberlain
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Erin, Jenny, Phoenix and Ernie

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Fortune Cookie Tell All

Last Saturday was Jenny's 32nd birthday. It was a hard day for me and probably everyone else. I had to try really hard to not yell at my kids who were bugging me and to keep my mind off the fact that Jen isn't here anymore. It was a sunny day (the first one in a long time here in Seattle) so I tried to focus on that and how much she loved sunny days. That helped quite a bit. As I drove around I looked at the beautiful landscape that is everywhere here (springtime in Seattle is gorgeous). I listened to her music on my cd player in my car and I also got to go to a baseball game where my son played. He is really into baseball and is quite good. He did a great job at the game and I thought about how proud Jen would be of him. She and Alex always liked to tease each other about what Major league team was the best. He loves the Yankees and Jen has always been a Red Sox fan. So, all in all, the day turned out to be nice...nice, but sad. I don't know how my mom and Ernie dealt with the day. I'm sure it was difficult. Thinking about that is a little much for me.
This e-mail Jen entitled "Fortune Cookie Tell All," and it was sent out on October 3, 2006. Hope you like it:

I got a new set of scriptures about five years ago. Ernie bought them for me for my birthday. Although I loved my old scriptures, they were hard to read. The maps in my triple combination were really stiff and every time I opened my scriptures, the maps would pop straight up in the air. My new scriptures are much nicer and I’ve finally started to wear them in. The other night I was reading in Matthew when I found a fortune from a fortune cookie. I don’t remember putting it in there. The fortune read, “He who loves you, will follow you”. I read it a few times and I’ve contemplated exactly what that could mean. I don’t know what I was thinking when I placed the small slip between the thin pages, but it didn’t matter. Just as the scriptures speak new things to us each time we read them, this small slip of paper meant something completely different to me. I thought of Christ and his disciples, especially Peter who was closest to the Lord. I contemplated how the Lord took Peter with him to the Garden and asked him to wait outside the gates. Peter loved our Savior, but he, undoubtedly exhausted, fell asleep. His spirit was willing, but his flesh was weak. How awful Peter must have felt when Jesus returned to find him and the two sons of Zebedee asleep when Christ needed them most. I wonder how often “my flesh has been weak”. When I’m dozing off in sacrament meeting? When I’m on vacation and break the Sabbath? When I eat breakfast on a fast Sunday? Doesn’t the Lord need us especially now to be vigilant and strong?

I also think about Paul in his epistle to the Corinthians when he writes, “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10). I wish I had learned this on my mission a little better. Instead of feeling beat down and dishearted at the end of my mission, I surely would have grown more and become stronger. I’m learning that principle now, but I still can’t say I’m taking pleasure in my distresses; I am able to still find joy amidst them.

Last Sunday after General Conference, we drove up past Mantua and took some pictures. We climbed into a dry creek bed and stepped carefully, for although the rocks were smooth, the way was still rocky and precarious. Writing about it now, I think it could be a metaphor for our lives. The way is sure, but we must step carefully, lest we fall by the wayside and not reach our destination. My mom and dad came with us and we were able to take some pictures and absorb the autumn splendor. I’m enclosing some of those pictures now.

Next week we are headed for Disneyland. Under normal circumstances I don’t think we’d be going because we really can’t afford it, but we feel compelled to go and spend the time together as a family. I’m excited to see how Erin fares. She loves Cinderella. I think she’ll be ecstatic to “meet” Cinderella. As soon as we arrive home, I start my chemo again. It will be the hardest vacation to come home from ever!

Please continue to pray for us, and for all those who need the Lord’s help at this time (I guess that means everyone).


1 comment:

staceygriff said...

Me again making another comment. I loved that they drove up past Mantua and took photo's. Most people in the world (or even those living in Utah)will never know how beautiful fall is in Logan canyon and near Mantua. I think you and your sister were and are both great writers. You really have a gift for writing. It must be therapeutic for you? I enjoy reading each time you post. I also love the photo of your niece at that end of the fortune cookie post. It looks like a mini doll version of Olivia! How cute is she!