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, September 22, 2008

Snow, Fish Sticks and Mao

Somewhere between the schlepping the kids to their various activities and cleaning the toilet for the 100th time this week I started to feel pretty sorry for myself. Not for anything real specific...just life and all the stuff that goes along with it. Yes, I miss Jenny but that wasn't all I was sad about. I was dwelling on my petty problems and let myself get into a real funk. Then, this afternoon, I got to talk to a sweet little voice on the phone that smacked me with reality. It was my niece Erin. I wondered, but didn't ask, if she is missing her mom like me. I listened to that little giggle as I made some funny jokes I knew she would like, and all my problems melted away for a moment. I'm so grateful the little pieces of my sister that live on (specifically two little pieces I miss terribly in Utah).
My problems aren't even worth commenting on now...

This e-mail was sent to Jenny's best friend Jennie Sykes Schwenk on December 11, 2006. The following bit is an explanation about the email from Jennie:

Jen was convinced that someone had put up a picture of Mrs. Claus that looked suspiciously like the communist leader Mao. She realized it wasn't, but took the picture anyway after getting my hopes up. (I mean, that really would have been pretty awful.)

So I drove out to Ernie’s brother’s house to drop something off on Saturday and I took the camera along to take the picture. When I realized it wasn’t supposed to be Mrs. Claus (as I supposed driving by at 50 mph) it was someones dead mother. I felt extremely guilty but took the picture anyway. I also saw a nativity scene on Friday that was missing its baby Jesus-- really. I tried to find it again on Saturday, but I couldn’t. I'm keeping my camera with me just in case.

I love fish sticks but I don’t usually buy them. I’ve tried the whole fish thing before. I mean, I really tried, but I hate fish…hate it.

So last week was my one year as a cancer survivor. It brought a lot of memories back; places in my life that I really don’t care to revisit. I feel like I’m in such a better place now. I’ve realized that although I don’t have very much control over a lot of things, I can control my perspective. I don’t think I could have done it (or continue to do it) without the Lord’s help and guidance; and when I look around and see all the suffering in the world that I don’t experience, I realize just how lucky, how blessed I really have been.

I’m sending along some pictures. I love Christmas I’m not sure why. I guess I just love the music and the purdy lights. We went with some friends to Ogden’s lights. Erin really liked it, but it was really cold and we only stayed for about ten minutes.

It snowed here yesterday but it was just a skiff down in the valley. I love how snow sounds when big clumps of flakes are falling to the ground. Have you ever noticed that everything seems more quiet? I notice my footsteps because they make squeaking sounds as they pack down the snow into perfect molds of my snow boots. The first snow is always the most special. It’s like when an old friend comes to visit each year. At first there is a lot of excitement because I’ve missed my friend so much but the old friend starts to wear out his welcome after a few months. And I hate the surprise visits in May.

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