In Honor Of Jenny & Salazar Family
Update: These fundraising efforts are in honor of Jennifer's memory, benefitting her mother Elsa and surviving sisters Stephanie, Elsa Marina, and Bridget.
So, we’re calling this ROUND 2:
In the spring of 2014 I introduced to you, the story of a beautiful and courageous young woman by the name of Jennifer Salazar..or “Jenny” as most of you may know her. In January of 2014 Jenny encountered what we now refer back to as the battle of her life. At only 28, she was diagnosed with Stage 3 brain cancer-changing her world, and that of her loved ones forever. Jenny endured a delicate 9 hour procedure to remove a large mass in her right frontal lobe; and at the hands of some of the best surgeons in the country, she came out of surgery victorious. As some of you may remember, shortly after she fought a yearlong battle against this incurable disease. She underwent 6 weeks of radiation, and a 12 month chemotherapy treatment. Although she came across some complications throughout her recovery, she was very blessed in the progress that she made as a result of the treatment following her surgery. Day after day and month after month; pill after pill, injection after injection, scan after scan..after extreme exhaustion, fatigue, nausea, hair loss, and everything else in between..we watched her do it all with such stride and bravery…the tiny, yet full of life little Jenny-(who once feared needles and phlebotomists) took cancer by the horns and kicked it on its butt. Fifteen months after her nightmare began, hearing the tumor was 99 % removed and that she was “cancer free” was a phrase we’d only ever dreamt of.
It is with a heavy, yet hopeful heart that I share the following update with you, our dear family and friends:
In late June of this past summer during one of her routine MRI’s, doctors discovered Jenny’s tumor had returned. From a clear, healthy scan in April, followed by a few uneasy weeks and the all too familiar symptoms-she was told there was a regrowth of the very same tumor, similar in size, in the same exact area. The thought of such a quick and aggressive growth, just under 2 months time, was cause for concern. Her team of oncologists and surgeons had to move very quickly, and so they did. About a week or so after their finding, Jenny was scheduled to undergo the same surgery from 2 years before to resect the tumor. On Friday July 1st, our brave Jenny came out of another delicate, yet successful procedure. Her surgeon appeared hopeful, however not losing sight of the testing that was still to come. With a positive post-op upon her, she was sent home only a few days later. All we could do then was wait for the oncologist’s next steps in regard to treatment. In addition to the traditional radiation and chemotherapy options, Jenny and her family were awaiting the possibility of qualifying for a clinical trial. This process took a few weeks because her body had to be clean of certain medications before beginning her new treatment. During this waiting period Jen continued to experience pain and severe discomfort in the usual area and now the back of her neck. It was only a few weeks since her second surgery, and her medical team decided to do another MRI just to err on the side of caution. To everyone’s dismay, her tumor grew back yet again, almost identical in size, which explained her ongoing pain. In addition to the tumor on the frontal right lobe, a new growth near her brain stem surfaced. It was then we all came to the harsh realization that she would embark on a much more difficult journey than the first time around.
At this moment Jennifer’s medical team has tried/is trying multiple methods of treatment to save Jenny’s life. Due to the rapid and aggressive growth, she wasn’t able to stay on the clinical trial for very long. Surgery is no longer an option as the front tumor has spread to both sides of the brain, and the back tumor is touching areas of her brain stem that are much too risky to operate-touching one spec of the wrong area could lead to permanent paralysis and that is a risk none of us-doctors included- are willing to take. She recently underwent a 10 day radiation treatment, and is trying a new combination of medicines to ease the swelling and hopefully halt the growth of her tumors. This particular new growth on her brain stem has brought about new challenges for Jenny and her loved ones. She has lost mobility in the right side of her body so she isn’t able to walk, and speech has become a strenuous task. Everyday movements such as standing, sitting, eating, and changing now require the efforts of 2 or 3 people.
We know that Jen is very blessed in comparison to many others battling cancer. She can still sit with us and enjoy a movie from her couch, share a meal, and even mumble a joke or two when she is alert and awake. She has been blessed with the love, 24-hour care and support of her loved ones, particularly her devoted mom, three sisters, and dedicated boyfriend of 6 years. My goal here once again is to support her and the family, easing those added stresses that they are facing during this difficult time. Jen has been fortunate enough to receive a wheelchair to assist with getting her to appointments and back-or perhaps to simply enjoy a walk down the block with her sisters and mom. The next item we are hoping to secure to assist with Jenny’s care is a medical hydraulic patient lift, which will be an enormous help to her family. In addition to medical equipment, any contributions will help her with medical bills, medicine costs, and everyday living expenses that regretfully don’t come to a stop. I want to ensure those details are the last of their worries and the focus is solely on Jennifer’s treatment and road to recovery.
In 2014 we learned and can now say with conviction that it truly takes a village. It took an army of prayer, love, support, positivity, faith and encouragement from her “village” to carry her through the fight of her life. Although she has to revisit this unfortunate chapter, I have yet to hear a single complaint or see a sign of defeat from this remarkable warrior, whom I am privileged to call my best friend. It is my hope that with your support, even just by sharing her story and sending her a word of encouragement…we will be able to see her through another fight and carry her to victory once again.
With much gratitude,
It is with a heavy heart I now share with you, that our beautiful Jenny was called home by our Heavenly Father this past Monday evening. I'm having trouble finding words however, I feel obliged to come on here and share as SO many of you have kept her in prayer and offered support since this all began back in 2014. Thank you for reading her story, thank you for sharing then and now, thank you for supporting our fundraiser pages, thank you for every prayer and positive thought you sent her way.
Witnessing her cancer journey has been the most humbling experience on so many levels. I'll never tire of saying how much resilience and strength she instilled in me. She gave me one of those unconditional friendships you can NEVER put a value on. I'll never tire of saying how much love and compassion she brought out in others. To family, friends, colleagues and strangers alike, I hope you know she fought till the bitter end not just for her, but for all of you.
Life without her physical presence will be more than just a challenge, my heart is broken as I write these words with tears I can't seem to stop. I only find solace in knowing my precious Jenny is no longer in pain. For now all I can do is continue to walk in faith and acknowledge that these plans aren't designed for me to understand.
This last week her momma and sisters blessed me with the opportunity to do her nails one last time, just like we used to do on those lazy late weekend nights. Some of my favorite memories were accompanied by junk food, a good movie (chosen by Mekhi), and hour-long discussions on what color our mani/pedi would be that week. We'd bicker about how much I despised pastels, bright colors and designs. She'd tell me I needed some color in my life. Some things will never change.
I'll love you forever, Jen