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

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

So Funny

I haven't written anything on here for a while because I really haven't had the time or the material. Also, it is hard to write on this blog. It makes me really remember Jenny and then I again realize how much I miss her. That's not a really great excuse, but it's true and I've just now realized it. It starts all the feelings and I try to stay away from them. That's pretty lame, I guess.

I was able to visit family in Utah this past month and was so happy to see Jenny's girls and husband. They are doing as well as you'd expect. I am amazed at my mom and Ernie's strength. I'm sure glad they have each other to lean on. They are doing really great all things considered.

Luckily, Jenny's friend Jen sent me some e-mails that I didn't have before. Actually, some I had but I'm not sure what happened to them. They remind me of Jenny's sense of humor and I laugh and laugh and then sometimes cry. But it's good to remember. Thanks for the e-mails, Jen!

The funny thing is that I received the e-mails from Jen Schwenk when I was in Cedar City and one of them talks about Jenny being in Cedar City. It made me kind of appreciate it through her eyes while I was there and made me feel lonesome for her. I don't know if many of you will understand her humor in this as much as I did, but it cracks me up:

July 17, 2006

I don’t remember the name of the guy who won American Idol but he looks forty-five and is actually only 29. Why are women crazy about him? I just don’t get it. When I was getting my car inspected this week I was leafing through a People magazine and just wanted to vomit.

So we’re all moved in at 902 Grandview Drive. The place is a complete mess most of the time. I’ve kind of given up trying to keep it clean. Usually I can get things picked up pretty well before Erin wakes up so that in about five minutes’ time she can destroy the place again. She has become quite willful. Last night we were at my parents and she saw the peacock and started chasing him. The peacock was running scared and Erin was screaming, “Wait! Wait!” The peacock ran into the neighbors’ dog, pursued by Erin until the black Labrador came in her path and sent her running back to me. She loves playing outside and is constantly filthy. I can’t get her to keep her shoes on for five seconds and she answers every question with “no.”

On Monday we went out to Antelope Island (on the Great Salt Lake). We went in the evening after Ernie got off of work and watched the sunset. My car smelled like brine shrimp for a couple of days. I’m sending along some pictures. The sunsets are especially red these days because of all the wildfires. Each one for the last two weeks has been amazing.

I stopped wearing my wig. My hair hasn’t totally come in yet. I had Ernie cut it all one length with his clippers. The first day I went to work with it like that I felt naked and liberated. It’s so much nicer to just worry about my own hair. The wig was wonderful, but I think it ran its course.

We bought a 1994 Jeep Cherokee and we’re selling my car. I’m going to miss my car, but Ernie is excited about having the Jeep and the $2,000 extra dollars we'll have when we sell the Focus. The jeep runs well but when we first bought it it was filthy. We bought it from a guy in Coalville (that’s near Henefer I had a farm in Henefer). I spent the whole day on Friday getting new tires, an inspection and license (not to mention cleaning it for two hours in the 100 + degree heat). Ernie still has to paint both bumpers. At least it has air conditioning and I’m planning a trip to Moab to take it off road through Canyonlands and Arches. I did that once with my mom and Mindy (my mom rented the Jeep) right after high school and it’s an experience I’ll never forget.

Cedar city was great. We saw Hamlet and it was wonderful and had such a happy ending. I think Hamlet is my favorite work of Shakespeare, but I’m not that well-versed in Shakespeare’s works, mostly what we read in high school. We couldn’t hike the narrows because of bad weather so we drove up to Cedar Breaks and over to Bryce Canyon. I’m sending along some pictures.

I start chemo tomorrow night. I’m a little apprehensive because I don’t do as well emotionally when I feel sick. I got a migraine today because of the heat and really struggled trying to stay positive. Will you pray for me? I did get accepted for the grant and they’re picking up $533.00 of my copays. I still have to pay $90.00 for the anti-nausea meds, but I’m so grateful for this organization that helps people like me pay for incredibly expensive healthcare. Thank you for your prayers.


Jennie Sykes-Schwenk said...

A little side note...the "I had a farm in Henefer" remark that Jen made in that email is a reference to little film that we made in high school called "Out of Henefer". It was our Utah based homage to our favorite movie, "Out of Africa". I played the Meryl Streep role and had to say the line "I had a farm in Henefer" in a very horrible Danish accent over and over. In the movie Meryl Streep has a coffee farm, but in our version it was a "Postum Plantation". I'm fairly certain that little video exists somewhere, though I don't think we ever had the fortitude to stop laughing long enough to finish it. The memory of Jen's humor remains bittersweet - all at once I can appreciate a moment or a joke that she would have found funny, but then the absence of her laughter reminds me of what's missing. I will, however, always take that knowledge of shared joy, no matter how hard it is to accept the pain too.

Christi said...

Hi, I'm Christi (Wilson) Walsh. Jen and I were companions on our mission. I think I was her second comp, we served in Erfurt together. She was a terrific missionary, and so much FUN! I moved to UT this summer and was looking forward to reconnecting with old friends. I am so sorry to hear about all of this...I've sat in front of the computer and cried for a bit now. Thank you for the blog and sharing some of her emails. She is so fun, and her girls are beautiful. What a strong person she is...she's always been an example to me.