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

Monday, April 14, 2008

I am glad to be able to share these emails with all of you. As I sit here and go through them and try to decide what to post next. I am amazed that my sister left me and others such a wonderful gift...the gift of her faith and beautiful words.

I am having a hard time lately. I feel like I will burst from the pain from missing Jenny. I suppose this is to be expected. I'll be fine one minute and an emotional wreck the next. My husband, Martin and I went to the Olive Garden to eat last Saturday night. I was just thinking I hadn't been there for a while and I was excited to go because I love the food. When we were there waiting to be seated I remember a time, not too long ago, that Jenny and I went to the Olive Garden together alone for lunch, when I was visiting in Utah. It was a few years ago, before Erin was born, but I remember that we had so much fun talking and enjoying the food. Nostalgia got the best of me and the next thing I knew there were tears in my eyes. Silly really, but true. I am really glad that I live in Seattle where I don't have to drive by her house and all the places that remind me of her. She was here visiting last year this same time. Spring was one of her favorite things.

This email was entitled "Another MRI and something to be grateful for." It was sent out on November 21, 2006. She talks about the little home in Ogden that she and Ernie and their little family lived in while their home next to my mom and sister was being built. It was a cute little house or duplex that Ernie's sister and brother in law let them live in for a while. This is a photo of them there. I love the way Erin is sitting there!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I am thankful for so many things this time of year. I got the results from my MRI today. It was really great news. My PA, Julia, was visibly excited as she showed me the last MRI from June and the MRI results from yesterday. The little bits of tumor that remained after the surgery are still shrinking. Julia told me and Ernie that means the Temodar is working. Of course, I had imagined every scenario in my mind leading up to today’s appointment (whether I wanted to or not). It’s nice going into the Holidays to know I’m going to be around for awhile (God willing). The MRI was pretty easy this time. I slept through a lot of it (owing to my lack of sleep with two little girls) but when they injected the contrast into my arm and put me back in the tube, it felt like a bee was knocking around in my head – or a pinball. It didn’t hurt, but it was a very odd, very unpleasant sensation. Apparently a lot of people report little neurological disturbances like this after receiving the contrast. I felt it again a little bit this morning and it made it so I couldn’t sleep – It was driving me nuts!

I’m reading a terrific book called “The Peacegiver” and I highly recommend it to anyone who has had problems in their families or even just in their own lives. Through a fictional story, the author subtly helps the reader begin to understand Christ’s Atonement for us. It was hard for me to put down last night and go to sleep. I’m excited to get my hands on it again tonight (that is, if I can get Erin to go to bed already!).

My dad would always think he was funny at Thanksgiving, and as we would sit down at Thanksgiving dinner with all of those tantalizing once-a-year foods sitting in front of us all warm and tasty, he would say we needed to go around the table and say what we were grateful for. Since he was doing it largely to annoy and antagonize my mother, we usually didn’t have to do it, but it might have been something nice to do after dinner as we were all dropping off to sleep due to our gluttonous appetites. :o) If I were sitting at a Thanksgiving table right now, these are the things I would list:

Of course, the first thing I am thankful for is the knowledge that I am the daughter of a Heavenly King, who loves me and cares very much for my spiritual welfare. To quote 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.”

Secondly, I am thankful for my family, and for Ernie’s family, and for those friends that I grew up with that are very much like family. The Lord gave us families to help us enjoy the good times, to get us through the bad times, and to test us; for I believe that there is so much to learn from those family quarrels – will we choose family, our blood, over other things like money? Will we be slow to forgive family members for the little and big transgressions against us?

I’m thankful for the cozy little home we are living in now. It’s crammed (should I say it?) full of love (too cheesy?). It’s nice and warm and, although it’s taken some getting used to, I love that Erin has a little yard to play in. I wish I spent more time outside with her. It feels like I spend all of my time cleaning the house, doing laundry, cooking, etc.

I’m going to have to wrap this up now – both kids are asleep in the same room where I’m typing this! I hope I can finish it tomorrow.



Jen Vesper said...

Thanks Heather. I hadn't seen the Dad poem to the side before. I LOVE that. It reminds me of my days on the bale wagon with my own dad. I hope you are doing better today. I love you!

staceygriff said...

Thank you Heather for posting. I met your sister once and I'm sad that I didn't get to know her better. I enjoy what you write and I also get a lot out of reading what Jenny had to say in her messages. I love the one about naming "Phoenix" I love the whole message behind that story. I know how you feel about crying at different times. The pain comes in waves and you have to just ride it out and in. Lame as that sounds. It's true though. We had a friend pass away awhile back and that was how it was with thinking of him. Something would trigger thoughts of him and I would start to cry. You have to allow yourself to feel it. To remember her, to hold on to her.Keep posting.