When her sister Meredith Parkinson was diagnosed with breast cancer, Jennifer and her family “were leveled” with shock. Avid about her own mammograms, Jennifer received a clear result in November 2021. Merely two months later in January however, she felt a lump and immediately called the doctor: “if Meredith had not been diagnosed, I don’t think I would have been as proactive. Otherwise, I would have just gone off my previous healthy mammogram and waited until the next year.” Even just the fact that she did a self exam is an ode to Meredith, as she had never done them previously.
Further testing confirmed that biopsies were needed and Jennifer was shocked to learn that she would need five that same day: “the one good thing was I wasn’t waiting for a call, I knew it right away like, ok I have breast cancer.” Her husband, on a plane at the time, would land to a text message saying ‘call me when you land. I have breast cancer.’“
Indeed, Jennifer was diagnosed with HER 2 positive, stage 2 breast cancer that had already spread to her lymph nodes. She began treatment, but not before four of the hardest conversations of her life. The first with her sister, still in treatment from a breast cancer relapse herself. The second with her mother who “hadn’t even processed what had happened to my sister and now was facing her second daughter’s diagnosis.” The third was with her husband, who was still grieving the loss of both of his parents within the last year. Lastly, it was the conversation with her children, ages 5 and 9 that proved most difficult. As ever with children, her daughter’s reaction provided a dose of levity: “at first she was terrified we were telling her that we were having another baby, quickly followed by if we were moving, so I found out her two biggest fears right away.”
Jennifer is quick to note her gratefulness for a diagnosis in 2023: “I am so lucky because prior to 1998, this cancer would have killed me.” She is also a reminder of the reality of mammograms- that they show clear results only applicable to the past and that the clock resets immediately after scans. With no genetic link found between her or her sister, she encourages everyone to self check, mammogram on time and be proactive. Ever the realist, she reflects on life post breast cancer with a slight smile: “breast cancer is such an insidious disease. I’ll never know I beat it until something else kills me.”