Where are they now?
Jen Thomas: She Can Still Do It!
What a difference a year makes…..
By JEN THOMAS
Special Contributor, Allegany Magazine
The day you are diagnosed with cancer you become a survivor. From. Day. One.
I had heard this before, but it is not until you experience it – and I truly hope for many of you out there reading this that you never do actually experience it -- that you truly understand the depths of that statement.
Last year at this time I had just finished five months of chemotherapy amidst the pandemic and my body felt battered and beat down – but I survived! I spent the following month preparing for a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. All went well and I thank God for not only my amazing healthcare team but also my husband who went above and beyond the call of duty caring for me at home. Again, I survived!
In October 2020 – just as most of you were seeing my bald head appear on the cover of this very magazine, I began daily treatments of radiation – 30 to be exact – to make sure any possible trace of cancer was gone for good. The daily drives and the treatments left me feeling exhausted, but, once again, I survived! And then I was completely done. And then I had the cover of my favorite lifestyles magazine as a wonderful souvenir of that time.
This may sound strange, but I found myself saying “now what?” Spending almost an entire year getting tested, going to appointments and treatments and then it was all over -- just like that -- and I had to transition. However, it did not take me long to realize it was now time for me to start living the rest of my life as a survivor!
Cancer truly does change your life. But I can honestly say it has changed mine for the better. I love harder, listen more closely, laugh louder, and cherish the smallest of things because they really are truly the biggest. I absolutely do not stress over things I used to think were so important. I have met so many amazing people throughout this journey near and far. I love helping and talking to other women who are facing the same thing as me. I call them my “Pink sisters”
Since last year, I have started a new position at UPMC Western Maryland as Manager of Community Health. It is a dream to work with a team focused on making our community healthier! Additionally, I am excited to have formed a team for the Western Maryland Making Strides event this October called “Pink Hope in High Heels”. Friends and family will walk with me as we continue to raise awareness and to fight for a future without cancer. I am also looking at volunteering to make “hope” bags for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients in our local area.
Life is a beautiful gift.
I was so grateful last year to be asked to share my story then with all of you – and then to be photographed and featured on a magazine cover while still fighting cancer was truly remarkable. For anyone who doesn’t think they look glamorous enough for a magazine cover – I am proof that reason is not a good enough excuse! And I loved the cover. So many women came up to me when that story came out to tell me they were scheduling mammograms after reading what I was going through. And I continue to be grateful to share my story and I look forward to continuing to share it with the goal of raising awareness and stressing the importance of prevention and screenings which truly save lives!