SILVER LINING … During cancer treatment, Jennifer met a special man that “God just kept putting in my path,” who is now her husband, Isaac. (PHOTO PROVIDED / THE VILLAGE REPORTER)
By: Amy Wendt
Cancer Survivor Jennifer Martin of Bryan has been chosen to serve as one of the Honorary Survivors for the 2023 Williams County Relay for Life (WCRFL).
In the early fall of 2012, Jennifer had just moved to Bryan and started a brand new job. The seemingly healthy single mom of three, who was in her early 30s, had no significant history of cancer in her family.
While at work on a Friday, Jennifer coughed which prompted her to spit. It’s an occurrence that all of us have had from time to time.
However for Jennifer, it was something different. She noticed she coughed up bright red blood.
“With what little medical knowledge I have, I knew that was not good because that means it was oxygenated blood,” continued Jen.
Immediately, Jen left work and drove herself to the emergency room. At the ER, a chest x-ray was performed which showed a mass about the size of a ping-pong ball in her right lung.
It’s important to note that Jennifer was a non-smoker and she had never been exposed to any kind of environmental factor known to cause a tumor.
“I expected to be released to follow up with a family doctor,” Jennifer recalled.
Healthcare professionals felt otherwise. Not knowing how long the mass had been growing and what underlying health issues Jennifer had, waiting was not going to be an option.
Immediately arrangements were made for Jennifer to be transferred to St. Luke’s in Maumee where she was admitted that Friday evening.
What Jennifer thought was going to be a quick emergency room visit turned out to be an extended hospital stay.
With a diagnosis yet not clear, as a precaution, Martin was isolated to her own room in the event her ailment was related to an infectious disease.
Biopsies and testing continued for Jennifer at St. Luke’s where she stayed a full week before being discharged.
September 23, 2012, the date Jennifer received her cancer diagnosis, is one she remembers well.
Sitting in the exam room, with her father for support, and hearing her doctor instruct staff from the other side of the door “contact the surgeon,” forced her to the realization that her health issue was something serious.
“It was an immediate heart drop. As much as I was hoping that he wasn’t talking about me, I assumed he was,” recalled Jennifer.
After delivering the news that Jennifer did, in fact, have a rare form of cancer known as carcinoid cancer, her doctor referred her to a surgeon for the removal of the tumor on an accelerated schedule.
The exact cause of carcinoid cancer is unknown and it is generally not associated with smoking or environmental factors.
With recently starting the new job and moving to a new town, Jennifer asked if the surgery could be scheduled a few weeks out so she could get some things in order.
Her healthcare team felt removing the tumor as soon as possible was the best course of action but agreed to give her just one additional week to prepare for surgery.
In mid-October, surgery was performed to remove the upper lobe of her right lung. Further testing revealed that the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes making chemotherapy a necessity.
Each round of chemo consisted of almost 16 hours of treatment; eight hours on day one, and four hours per day on the following two days.
Jennifer would then have a three-week break and continue the cycle again with three rounds total. Valentine’s Day of 2013 was her last round.
While Jennifer had a support system, as a person who didn’t accept help easily because she was not accustomed to asking for it, accepting assistance from others was an adjustment.
Friends and family reached out to her with offers of meals and help with housekeeping. Some just sent little notes letting Jennifer know they were thinking of her which was a welcomed distraction from her condition.
“Sometimes the conversation not having to be about cancer or the chemo treatments meant the world,” Jennifer added.
On Jennifer’s 32nd birthday in 2013, she found out that she was cancer free! In October 2023, she will be 10 years free of cancer and will be able to say she is officially in remission.
While Jennifer’s health crisis was by no means an ideal point in her life, it did present a silver lining. During the time of her treatment, she met a special man who as Jennifer notes, “God just kept putting in my path” and the two became closer.
Today, Jennifer is married to this special man, her husband, Isaac, and their future is bright. Together, they have started a financial assistance outreach nonprofit Storehouse 4 Hope (www.storehouse4hope.org).
“Life is good,” Jen states without hesitation. With family members involved in Relay for Life teams in other counties, Jennifer is very familiar with the American Cancer Society’s mission.
Following her cancer treatment, Jennifer had her own Williams County Relay for Life Team as well.
However, as an Honorary Survivor of WCRFL, she wasn’t sure if she was deserving of the role.
“I don’t downplay any type of cancer by any stretch of the imagination. But, I don’t feel like I struggled,” Jennifer began.
“Yeah I lost part of my lung; I had to go through chemotherapy; I couldn’t work. Chemotherapy is really hard on the body and I got sick.”
“But, when I look back at it, I question if I was worthy of being (chosen as) an Honorary Survivor for the entire county,” finished Jennifer.
Nonetheless, Jennifer feels honored to be able to share her story with others who are currently battling cancer and to offer them hope.”
“I want them to know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel after cancer ..and isn’t a train.”
The 2023 Williams County Relay for Life Event will be held on Friday, June 9 from 5:00 pm to Midnight at the Williams County Fairgrounds.
As one of the Honorary Survivors for 2023, Martin will be on hand to share her inspirational story with guests to offer hope to those who are currently struggling with their own cancer journey.
Amy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org