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“You know when there’s a long wait that it’s never good.” Jenn Helms, a member here at the RiverPlex since 2001, was at her regular mammogram appointment in 2013 when her results came back positive for breast cancer.
“I thought I did everything right, I led a healthy lifestyle. I was a nurse for 31 years. No one in my family had ever had breast cancer.” Jenn went through a left mastectomy and immediate reconstructive surgery just a few months after the diagnosis. Following surgery, she completed six rounds of chemotherapy and today she is stronger than ever before.
“I remember this metal taste in my mouth, nothing tasted good. Walking two blocks was difficult.” Jenn says she remembers feeling worn out, and just didn’t have it in her to get up early and come workout with her friends. Eating was hard. “It was my time, God gave me this and I rose to the challenge.” She remembers there was always a card in the mail. These little gestures and kind words from friends and family helped her continue the fight. Jenn’s mom always told her to take it one day at a time. Her husband made it to every one of her physician visits. It was these little gestures that kept her motivated.
When asked what kept her going, Jenn said it was her family, friends, and her core group of ladies here at the RiverPlex. Friends took turns holding her accountable at classes. “It was warming to see that people would work around their schedules to come into classes and keep track of me. If I missed a class, someone would always check in with me.” It was frustrating for her that at one point she could lift heavy weight and that during her recovery she was struggling with lifting 2-3 pound weights. “Now why can’t I do this?” is what she would say to herself. Getting back to where she was before diagnosis was going to be a long process but Jenn was determined to make that comeback! “When I did get my strength back and could do more weights, I started personal training with Andrea from body pump. It was a gradual progression. I started with 2-3 pound weights. It was the thought in my head that I used to be able to do the 10 pounds, now why can’t I? It was a personal goal of mine to get back to.”
We asked Jenn if someone were in the same position as you, what would your words of wisdom be? “Never give up. There’s always hope. There’s a better day ahead. You don’t ever want to say “why me?” It’s a tough pill to swallow, but never give up. Think of the bigger picture, there are people who need you here.” Jenn knew that her mother needs her, her husband needs her, and she wanted to be needed. There are people around you that rely on you, and you’ve got to get there for them.
We asked Jenn how the experience affected her relationships. “It’s a hard job. It’s a weight on them. She remembers running down the street with her friend Janet and telling her that she had breast cancer. “And you know we just balled in the middle of the street and kept running.” “Okay, we can get through this.” I loved the little cards/notes. Or even just the one liner text that would just come out of the blue. People would just do things out of the blue, “What can I do? Jenn would reply with sometimes you just have to do. Just do it, just go get that drink go answer the door. “I didn’t know what I needed.” Jenn remembers asking her husband for a milkshake. “I just needed that milk shake. That milk shake meant THE WORLD to me, but to him it was just a silly milk shake.” It was little acts of kindness that really meant the world to her.
“I just can’t say enough of the people here (at the RiverPlex) that have encouraged me. They kept telling me it’ll get there, it’ll happen, it may not happen right away but we are here to help you. They always want to know what my limitation is that day and it’s just so helpful.”
Are you living life any differently now that you are a survivor? “I take a little bit more risks. Like I never would have thought that I would want to be able to do a pull up by myself!” I have realized that there is no limitation, age is just a number. Just little risks. I try to go see more things. Like the other night at 6pm I said lets go see the Chiefs game and the game started at 6pm. I like doing a lot more spontaneous things. I always say, but why not? I have nothing to lose.”
Here at the RiverPlex, we care for our members and we are always able to make modifications as necessary. Jenn started off doing private training with someone who could help motivate her through her initial workouts. She then transitioned into our small group training programs and is not involved in semi-private training! (and currently lifting more weight than she ever could!) Jenn didn’t give up, she worked even harder! If you or someone you know is going through anything similar to what Jenn went through, please reach out and ask for help! Our staff at the RiverPlex is devoted to helping our members succeed.
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