Bonnema-Sabwa Fund: Life after Loss

Jill's journey began in late November of 2011 when she became concerned about a painful lump in her breast.  After many appointments, she was told by doctors that she was being paranoid, but to calm her fears they agreed to do a PET scan.  What the doctors saw on the scan led to a biopsy. Upon returning from Thanksgiving weekend with family, she was first diagnosed with breast cancer on December 2, 2011.  She was 37 at the time and the lump that was a supposedly a benign tumor found “commonly” after breast feeding was really stage 4 cancer, the size of a golf ball.

 On December 28, 2011 she started chemo therapy.  Along with other symptoms including fatigue, nausea, and soreness, she began to lose her beautiful red hair.  The last chemo treatment ended in late April of 2011 and Jill and Christian celebrated the end of this awful course of treatment by leaving the kids in the care of family while they went away for a long weekend.

Tests showed that the chemo had been effective in shrinking the tumor down to the size of a pea.  It was determined that the next best course of action for Jill was to undergo surgery. So, in June of 2012 Jill had a radical mastectomy which includes the removal of lymph nodes in addition to the breast.

 We all hoped that the chemo and surgery would be the end of Jill’s cancer journey and that she would be given a clean bill of health.  However, upon meeting with her radiologist he indicated that all 10 of the lymph nodes that they removed from Jill were found to contain cancer, which indicated that the cancer had entered the lymphatic system at which point the doctors now recommended a round of radiation.  Radiation came with its own unique symptoms..with the greatest one being extreme fatigue.

Finally a reprieve came, a time for Jill to gradually recover her energy and her strength.  Her daughter Weloli continued to progress in school, showing herself to be a straight A student, with a natural gift for learning.  Her son slowly but surely found his own footing away from mommy’s leg, where you usually could find him tightly wrapped, as he went off to pre-school. During this time Jill also decided to go ahead and do reconstructive surgery in June of 2013. 

Reprieve did not last long.  By mid September 2013 Jill noticed some lymph nodes near her chest area that looked swollen and made an appointment.  A PET scan followed and by September 30, 2013, she was diagnosed with bone cancer.  The cancer that had entered the lymphatic system had moved into the blood stream and then was carried to her bones.  She was told that they had identified spots on her hip, pelvis and shoulder.  The doctors told Jill that bone cancer was treatable, but not curable.  They knew they would likely have to adjust their treatment plans as current ones became no longer effective.  To start, they decided on an oral chemo.

 At this point I should tell you that way before Jill ever learned about having breast cancer she had already adopted a very natural diet electing to eat an organic, high protein/fiber, low carb/sugar diet and treat minor ailments with homeopathic remedies.  She firmly believed that chemo and radiation were an ends to a means and that healing started by healing her body naturally.  After the bone cancer diagnosis she became even more aggressive, wanting to eliminate all sugar, as cancer loves sugar.  She adopted a macrobiotic diet, complimented with various supplements, and vitamin infusions.

By June of 2014 doctors had recommend that she have a full hysterectomy so that her ovaries could no longer produce estrogen, which served as the fuel for her type of cancer.  So at the young age of 39 and 8 months she was sent spiraling into full onset menopause.

 Tests continued and results went up and down over the next several months until Jill started to have heart pains and shortness of breath which were so concerning that they required two separate trips to the emergency room. 

With new symptoms, new concerns and new tests arose.  On November 13, 2014, Jill was diagnosed with brain cancer.  Doctors found two tumors on the right side of her brain along with fluid around the brain. The immediate treatment plan recommended was radiation.  Radiation began November 20, 2014 and was completed on December 4, 2014.  Once again, along with the nausea, fatigue, and other symptoms, Jill’s beautiful red hair fell out.

 In December the shortness of breath continued from the drop in red blood cell count, hemoglobin,and platelets.  Blood transfusions started to be required intermittently. This is very common for cancer patients with bone cancer who are using chemo to treat their cancer.  The chemo kills the bad cells, but also the good cells. Doctors were also using the transfusions to try to get Jill’s blood counts up to a healthy level so that she could undergo a surgery that would put a hole in her head that would serve as a port for chemo to treat the brain cancer. 

 Her surgery was scheduled for Wednesday January 14, 2015.  When her blood panel was taken, her count was still too low for surgery and she was given another transfusion.  Again her blood panel was reviewed.  This time, the results showed that not only did her blood count continue to be too low, but that she also had black blood cells and immature white blood cells forming, which is an indication of leukemia either formed by the breast cancer in her bone marrow or as a result from her treatment.  On January 16, 2015 Jill was told by doctor’s that due to the leukemia, there were no further medical treatment options for her.

Jill continued to work with a natural doctor that showed very high success rates in late stage cancer patients.  She was working to heal her body so that it can start to create its own healthy cells her body was not doing what she needed it to do and it was aggressively working against her.  

At 10:25 am CST January 27, 2015 Jill went to be with the Lord.  She fought valiantly to the very end.  She met each day bravely and was determined to do what she could to spend as much time as possible on this earth with the loves of her life, Weloli and Zadio.  She was lovingly cared for by her husband, mother, and friends in her final days.  Jill spread so much joy while on this earth.  While the list would be endless, here are some of the words we will always remember her by:  firecracker, traveler, curious, peace-maker, warrior, persistent, trouble-maker, adventurous, loving, family focused.

Heaven will never be the same.

Right now we ask for prayers of comfort and encouragement.  While we rejoice that Jill is in a better place, free of pain, she leaves a hole in the hearts of many.  She was a wife, mother, daughter, sister, niece, aunt, cousin and friend.  

As an expression of sympathy, if family and friends desire, donations can be made to the GoFundMe for the Bonnema-Sabwa family.
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Kara Earegood Whitfield 
Streamwood, IL
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