What would Marquita do?

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One of the very first friends to reach out to me in the earliest days of my fight was a former co-worker from a hospital I used to work at. We were the unlikeliest of friends. When Marquita started as a charge nurse I didn’t know quite what to think of this spitfire bundle of energy. As a general rule, I put my initial thoughts aside, rather than deciding at first glance that I dislike a person and as time passed we formed a friendship.

We worked well as a team and shifts were always more fun when I had her to talk to. Marquita was an absolute wealth of knowledge and I think she may be in the top two teaching nurses I have ever worked with. Our unit could be burning to the ground and she never lost her cool. Honestly I can only hope one day someone will look back on their time working with me and have half the respect for me as I have for her.Junkstock, October 10, 2014

The more we talked we realized we had similar interests. One of the most fun times I have ever had was when we both drove up to Omaha, Nebraska to attend Junkstock. We wandered around the festival style flea market on a chilly October day and had more fun than I can describe. It was amazing to see the things people were able to make using common everyday junk. Marquita was drawn to every vendor display with purses. I began to wonder if an intervention was needed! We wrapped up our day of adventures with me introducing her to one of my favorite Italian buffets.

As time passed we moved in different places. I left the hospital we worked at together to take on a new challenge working on a women’s surgery unit. Shortly after I left, Marquita moved to another state to live closer to her family. Even through the distance we always maintained touch. Sometimes we would talk more often than others depending on how busy we were at the time, but no matter what, the friendship never faded.Marquita's quote

On October 10, 2018 I was still in the middle of the bad days. The days when simply moving around in bed caused so much pain. The bedside commode days. Worst of all? This was the day after my first oncologist appointment when I got the final diagnosis. Metastatic breast cancer. I was still so very numb. I was lying in my bed staring blankly at the wall as I did in the beginning. Suddenly my phone vibrated and I looked at it to see one of the most moving messages. The perfect message that I needed so very much in the midst of the crushing depression.

My buddy starts the text out with words of encouragement. Reminding me if I ever needed anyone to talk to, yell with, curse with, anything, she was there. We chatted for a bit before the truth came out. Two weeks prior, around the same time I was diagnosed with my ‘unknown’ cancer, she too was diagnosed with cancer. Stage 2 uterine cancer.Marquita begged me 'But Jen...just one purse...please??'

Who could ask for a better friend in life? Here Marquita is dealing with cancer on her own, worrying about me and trying to lift my spirits. The next week she popped in with funny pictures to make me laugh. I later learn this was after she passed out at work and was sent to the emergency room. While I have been ‘lounging around’ since my diagosis, this tough cookie worked up until she had surgery.

We both had our hysterectomies within a couple of weeks of each other. While I breezed through mine and took my bucket list trip soon after, Marquita had some complications. While I have been incredibly blessed to so far only need oral medications which has been kicking cancer’s ass, she had a port placed to begin chemotherapy and will also need radiation. While my hair might be falling out a tiny bit more because of my medications (hard to tell because I’ve always shed like a dog), Marquita asked the love of her life to shave hers off rather than watch it fall out during treatment.marquita

But through it all this badass is looking to me as an example. Marquita told me ‘So today when this started I said WWJD (what would Jen do). Ha ha. And I just sucked it up.’ What would Jen do? Oh girlfriend, what would you do? What would this beautiful, amazing, courageous woman do?

My friend is going through so much more than me, yet she looks to me as an example of strength. I sometimes wonder in the moments of darkness if I would be able to get through this without my cancer sister. My motivator. My laughter. My friend through thick and thin.The thoughts of a warrior

Cancer sucks. It really does. Our type of cancer might be different, but we are both facing the same beast. Cancer doesn’t care who you are. It will come for you just the same. I hate what it has done to me. I hate what it is doing to my beautiful friend. I hate that our lives have had to take a backseat to this terrible disease.  We won’t let cancer stop us. We are already making plans for the future. Together we are going to visit Junkstock again. We are going to take a roadtrip to see the world (or at least the US).

Everyday I thank God for sending my adopted sister to me. Marquita is my rock. She may think ‘what would Jen do,’ but to me I will always suck it up and ask myself ‘what would Marquita do.’


Jennifer – Extensive mets to bones. Diagnosed de novo at 43 of ‘unknown cancer’ on 9/25/2018, official diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer with bone metastasis on 10/9/2018. Cancer won’t win. I won’t let it. Life’s too short not to fight for every minute.
Dx 10/9/2018, invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), left breast, 1.5cm, Nottingham Grade 6, hormone receptor positive, ER+ (estrogen receptor)/PR+ (progesterone receptor), HER2- (human epidermal growth factor), BRACA- (genetic mutation), Stage IV, metastasized to bones
First CA 27.29 10/9/2018 83 (goal <38)
Hormonal Therapy 10/12/2018 Tamoxifen (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone) pills
Targeted Therapy 10/12/2018 Xgeva (Denosumab) injection
Hormonal Therapy 10/19/2018 Lupron Depot (Leuprolide Acetate) injection
Surgery 11/29/2018 Vaginal hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy
First CA 27.29 post hysterectomy 12/10/2018 73 (goal <38)
Hormonal Therapy 12/11/2018 Femara (letrozole) pills
Targeted Therapy 12/23/2018 Ibrance (palbociclib) capsules
First CA 27.29 post medication change 1/10/2019 60 (goal <38)
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A million little things

A million little thingsEvery so often you run across a television show that you can completely identify with as you watch it each week.

I ran across this little gem at the exactly right time in my life. I was diagnosed with (an at the time undetermined) cancer on September 25, 2018. ‘A million little things’ premiered the following night.

I’m not going to lie. I had no clue what to expect the first time I tuned in. One of my favorite movies is ‘Office Space.’ To this day I watch it everytime it comes on so when I ran across a show with Ron Livingston in it I had to check it out. The last thing I expected was how much I would find myself relating to the characters and the situations they would deal with each week.

For those who aren’t familiar with ‘A million little things,’ the premise is how suicide effects everyone around that person after they are gone. That’s how it begins, but there is so much more. Four everyday joes get trapped in an elevator. While they are waiting they all start talking about their lives and things they enjoy. By the time the fire department comes to retrieve them a bond has formed and they become friends.

Okay, well it is kind of a weak basis, but that’s all right. Ironically, the reason I tuned in the first week was to see Ron Livingston, but the character that committed suicide (Jon) in the first episode was the one played by him. It didn’t matter. I was hooked already.Rome

I’m a survivor of a few suicide attempts when I was younger as well as someone who struggles with bipolar disorder. I know all too well just how hopeless things can become until one day you just can’t take it any longer and suicide seems like the best solution. As the pilot episode unfolds you learn that Rome (Romany Malco) was attempting suicide when his friend Gary (James Roday) calls to tell him Jon was dead. That phone call kept him from killing himself. If the call had come a few minutes later it would have been too late and he would have succeeded in his own attempt. In the coming weeks, Rome struggles to understand his own depression.gary cancer

The other topic that the show focuses a lot on is breast cancer, and shows how it’s not just a woman’s disease. Men can also get it. How perfect for me, right? I had literally just been diagnosed with what I would learn two weeks later was breast cancer. You meet Gary and learn he was one of the 1% of breast cancer cases that strike men. I’m not sure if I have ever seen another show tackle this topic as a major theme (or at all). Breast cancer is just for the ladies, right? It’s nice to see a mainstream television show provide awareness that men can get breast cancer too.

Maggie and Gary chemoIn the first episode, Gary meets Maggie (Allison Miller) at a breast cancer survivor’s group. During the episode ‘Friday Night Dinner’ that aired eight days after I learned that the ‘unknown’ cancer I had was metastatic breast cancer, Maggie learned that her cancer had returned and it had now invaded her lymph nodes (it’s unclear if it has moved to a distant site which would make it metastatic).

It is so painful to watch her try to work through the emotions of having believed she had put cancer in her past only to have to fight it again. She asked the question I was afraid to ask. She asked how long she had left only to be told without treatment she wouldn’t live longer than a year. The look on her face shows the emotions I felt as I read source after source that said the average life for a person with a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis is only 2 1/2 years.

As the season has progressed, Maggie continues to wrestle with the decision of whether to seek treatment or if she should accept whatever cancer would bring, even if that meant she would die. You see her struggle to decide whether to endure chemotherapy and deal with the nasty side effects it causes or if she should simply live the best life she could with whatever time she had left.

This is a decision I contemplate daily. While today my cancer is well managed with a strict regimen of oral medications, I realize the day might come when I am forced to make the choice of deciding how much fighting is enough. If it looks like things have gotten to the point that I lost any good quality of life, I think for me it would be difficult to continue to pump toxic medications into my body that did nothing to control or reduce the cancer if all they did was make me violently ill.

It’s not often I discover a show that I can’t wait to see each week. I couldn’t have run across this television show at a more perfect time. It deals with so many subjects that touch my life so deeply and has helped me think about the choices I will ultimately face someday. What a real gem in a television world of boring reality shows.

Note: ‘A million little things’ airs Thursday nights on ABC at 9pm eastern/8pm central.

Jennifer – Extensive mets to bones. Diagnosed de novo at 43 of ‘unknown cancer’ on 9/25/2018, official diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer with bone metastasis on 10/9/2018. Cancer won’t win. I won’t let it. Life’s too short not to fight for every minute.
Dx 10/9/2018, invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), left breast, 1.5cm, Nottingham Grade 6, hormone receptor positive, ER+ (estrogen receptor)/PR+ (progesterone receptor), HER2- (human epidermal growth factor), BRACA- (genetic mutation), Stage IV, metastasized to bones
First CA 27.29 10/9/2018 83 (goal <38)
Hormonal Therapy 10/12/2018 Tamoxifen (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone) pills
Targeted Therapy 10/12/2018 Xgeva (Denosumab) injection
Hormonal Therapy 10/19/2018 Lupron Depot (Leuprolide Acetate) injection
Surgery 11/29/2018 Vaginal hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy
First CA 27.29 post hysterectomy 12/10/2018 73 (goal <38)
Hormonal Therapy 12/11/2018 Femara (letrozole) pills
Targeted Therapy 12/23/2018 Ibrance (palbociclib) capsules
First CA 27.29 post medication change 1/10/2019 60 (goal <38)

I am a California nurse!!!!!!

California Nursing License

I am so excited! I logged into the Arizona online application system to check on my registered nursing endorsement. Still nothing. Just out of curiousity I checked with California. I about peed my pants when I saw a license number by my name. I was told to plan on six months. I applied December 27th and my license was issued January 24th. This must be a sign. I’m offically California dreaming!


Jennifer – Extensive mets to bones. Diagnosed de novo at 43 of ‘unknown cancer’ on 9/25/2018, official diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer with bone metastasis on 10/9/2018. Cancer won’t win. I won’t let it. Life’s too short not to fight for every minute.
Dx 10/9/2018, invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), left breast, 1.5cm, Nottingham Grade 6, hormone receptor positive, ER+ (estrogen receptor)/PR+ (progesterone receptor), HER2- (human epidermal growth factor), BRACA- (genetic mutation), Stage IV, metastasized to bones
First CA 27.29 10/9/2018 83 (goal <38)
Hormonal Therapy 10/12/2018 Tamoxifen (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone) pills
Targeted Therapy 10/12/2018 Xgeva (Denosumab) injection
Hormonal Therapy 10/19/2018 Lupron Depot (Leuprolide Acetate) injection
Surgery 11/29/2018 Vaginal hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy
First CA 27.29 post hysterectomy 12/10/2018 73 (goal <38)
Hormonal Therapy 12/11/2018 Femara (letrozole) pills
Targeted Therapy 12/23/2018 Ibrance (palbociclib) capsules
First CA 27.29 post medication change 1/10/2019 60 (goal <38)