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, November 24, 2008

A Little Chemo and a Little Cinema

These two got into some trouble with some markers not too long ago. My mom never allowed us to have markers growing up but it looks like she caved with Erin and Phoenix. This is what happened when she left the room one day for a few minutes. I guess she learned her lesson!

When I saw this I was laughing so hard. Those little faces look like they know they're in a lot of trouble. Jenny was always so mischievous growing up and I bet she was having a real good laugh that day, at my mom's expense!!

I just found out my youngest sister, Mindy had a baby girl this afternoon. These are the times I really miss living so far from home. Everyone there is busy welcoming a new little spirit into the family, but I'm stuck here. Oh well, at least I can celebrate here, and I will get to see her in the not-too-far distance when I travel home from Christmas. I can't help but wonder if Jenny has just said good-bye to a little spirit today, a spirit she's been helping prepare...either way, I think she is smiling down on us from heaven, if only for a moment; I know she's busy where she is.

This email was sent to Jennie Sykes on July 21, 2006 and is entitled "A little chemo and a little cinema:"

So let me tell you what my days are like when Im on the chemo drugs. I started on Monday night. I took some Zofran at about 11:00 PM then I took the chemo pills at midnight. I know that if I'm sleepy enough, I can sleep through almost everything. I watch the Letterman I TiVoed and usually fall asleep just after the Top Ten. My kids are with my mom so I sleep through the night until Ernie wakes up at 5:30 AM, but I don't get up, I just lay on the couch and sleep and sleep until 8:00 AM when I feel sick and have to get up and eat something then I fall back asleep until 1:00 PM or so when I wake up, change my clothes and go see a movie. I saw Pirates of the Caribbean, the Lake House and today I saw The Devil Wears Prada. I like going to the movies by myself in the afternoon. The theater is so nice and cool and the movies are a distraction from the reality that I'm facing. After the movie I walk around the mall and look in different stores and can't believe how much things cost at the mall (when I can buy clothes at yard sales for next to nothing -- $50.00 for a blouse? Try 0.50 at the yard sale down in the trailer court! HA!). Today I drove out to my mom's to spend some quality time with Erin. I feel waves of nausea from time to time and really shouldn't drive, but I miss her so much. I took her to Oaklawn Park and we went on the slides and on a walk through the trees. She wanted me to hold her the whole time and came and gave me hugs after she went down the slide. Tonight I put her to bed at my mom's. I sang some songs and read some books and tickled her arms until her eyes were sleepy and she turned on her side and closed her eyes. She's such a sweet little girl and I'm happy to report I've replaced Ernie as the favorite. Its about time!

It is now 10:40 PM and I'm kind of hanging out with Ernie. We're in the same room and that's nice, even if we're not talking. I get lonely during the day. At least I get to catch up on some movies that I've been wanting to see. I was disappointed with Nacho Libre, but I was asleep during about half of it (we saw it at the drive-in and this sleep-deprived mom falls asleep pretty easily these days).

I'm about to make another CD for you. These are just some songs that I like right now. I promise not to enclose any pictures of clowns or little people, unless I stumble onto a keeper like I did last time. There is a commercial that comes on with evil clowns in it why do people feel the need to show us EVIL clowns? Regular clowns are just as scary. Do you remember the Ronald McDonald that hit on you?

I hope you and Alrick are enjoying your summer. Are you able to stay cool? When is your cruise?

Hope to hear from you soon,

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