Have you ever meet someone and knew within the first few minutes, there was something extra ordinary and special about them?? That’s the feeling I got when I first met Jeni Kmic. Jeni graduated from Delta High School a few weeks ago. She emailed me about senior pictures and if there was any way I could squeeze her in. I did find it odd for someone to contact me after graduation, but after I found out why, it made perfect sense to me. At the age of 16 (just two years ago) Jeni was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. As a side effect to her treatments, she lost all her hair. It has finally grown back to the perfect length and she was officially ready to pose for the camera. What an honor for Jeni to choose me–I couldn’t say yes fast enough! I knew right away I wanted to tell her story here on the blog. When I told her about my plan and ask if that would be ok, she looked at me with a big smile on her face and said: “That would be cool, but I don’t think it’s really a big deal”. Cancer is no big deal?! Wow, that blew me away. So take a few minutes, sit back, and read about Jeni’s story as told by her mom. Don’t forget to leave her a comment too!
Mid April of 2008 Jeni came home from school and stated that she had felt a lump in her throat. Most things I try to let go but lumps make me nervous. We took her to our family doctor and he was concerned with the location of the lump. He was thinking thyroid problem so the testing began for that. Jeni went through several series of blood test including a thyroid uptake but all came back negative. The second week of testing, Jeni came home from school and said that she was having a great deal of pain where the lump was and that she could not catch her breath, could not bend over and could not find any relief or comfort in any position that she sat or laid in. I called the family doctor and he wanted her to go to the ER right away and have an ultrasound done.
Thankfully at the ER the ultrasound tech had already left for the day so the ER doctor ordered a CT scan from Jeni’s chest to her hips. The scan showed that all of her lymph nodes were enlarged. The ER doc then ordered a CT from her hips down. That scan as well showed all of her lymph nodes were enlarged. They had also done a complete blood work up on her and that came back with some funky numbers. The ER contacted our family doctor with all of the results and he said it was ok of for us to go home but contact him first thing in the morning.
The hospital of course had given us the results of the scans and blood work but no diagnosis. I know just enough about medicine to make me dangerous, so with what we had in our hands I knew things were not good, but I was holding out hope for an infection of some sort that could be fixed with some good antibiotics. It was a long night.
Next morning I went to work and called the docs office right when it opened. I was informed that today was doctors day off and I would have to wait until Monday to get a hold of him. My heart sunk to my knees. I was worried sick already and then to think of waiting until Monday–OMG. So I politely said ok and made my appointment. That day just drug on until about 3:00 and my phone rang. Believe it or not it was the good doc. Come to find out he had came in on his day off and was working on Jeni s case all day. He told me what he was suspecting and that he had contacted Dr. S at Toledo Children s Hospital and had set up an appointment for us on Monday. I was relieved to know that Dr. D did not desert us and that he had set a plan into motion. It was a long weekend.
Monday came and what a whirlwind did we find ourselves in. From the moment we walked in the doors of Toledo Children’s Hospital we felt like we were the most important people in the world. The first person we met of course was the receptionist Tina. We were greeted with her great smile and a feeling that everything was ok. Next we met Beth what a wonderful and pleasant person to be with. Beth took all of Jeni s vitals and put us in our room to wait to see the doctor. I say wait but it was no time at all and in walks Dr. S. I think that he and Jeni hit it off immediately. He gave us a quick rundown of what he and Dr. D had spoke about and what the day would hold for Jeni. Lots of testing and a biopsy the next day. We took a deep breath and said ok. After a very long day of testing, we went home to rest up for surgery. We knew at this point that doctors were leaning towards some form of lymphoma but no complete diagnosis yet until after the biopsy.
The next morning, we met Dr. C the surgeon who will do the biopsy on Jeni. Dr. C was a great guy and Jeni clicked with him quickly. So with the eternal great smile that Jeni ALWAYS has on her face they took our baby to surgery–the wait was unbearable. Finally Dr. C came out and explained that they did a freeze biopsy on Jeni and found for fact that she had a lymphoma and that we would find out in the next couple of days if it was Hodgkins or not. He also let us know that he placed her port and that Dr. S had taken some bone marrow as well. After a little bit of a wait, we were finally back with Jeni. A little sleepy but still smiling. The next day was filled with more waiting with lots of rest. Thursday was back to the hospital for more tests and a PET scan. The PET scan would show if the cancer was migrating and to where. Then it was home again for more waiting.
FRIDAY: Day of diagnosis.
Dr. C had told us that if we were praying people to pray for Hodgkins Lymphoma because it has the best cure rate. When got to the hospital, awaiting for us was Sue the social worker, Liz the nurse practitioner (more angels) and Dr. S.
Good News! It was Hodgkins Lymphoma. Bad News! It had migrated to her spleen and there was a mass over her heart.
Good News! Jeni has not exhibited any B symptoms night sweats ect.. Bad News! Chemo and radiation.
“OK. What is the plan?” asks the 16 year with no fear or hesitation in her voice. The adults all seem to be a bit stunned by this matter of fact reaction to this news. We all seem to be waiting for a small breakdown. Nothing? Not a tear? Nope! A willingness to fight this? YOU BET. As a mother I could not have been more proud at this young women’s attitude. WOW!!! But then another questions was raised. They asked if she would be interested in being part of a study group if she qualified. Again not an ounce of hesitation and If it can help someone else than of course . Again, WOW!
As the plan was laid out, and we were told what to expect during treatment ect, a small breakdown came when the words No Cedar Point, No Swimming were spoken. Two of Jeni’s favorite summer activities. Breath OK. There is always next summer. Lets get started!
We were told to plan for eight hours of treatment on the first day, it ended up to about twelve. We met yet another angel by the name of Ruth. Turns out we would spend a lot of time with her for the next four months. The next day, about six hours of treatment and Ruth was there taking care of Jeni. Then next day, even shorter treatment of about two hours–there is Ruth. Then three days off.
For the next four months that was the routine. Mixed in that schedule was the agony of a sixteen year old girl losing her beautiful blonde hair, but managing to be even more beautiful with a bald head and ever present smile. Also, sometimes being so tired but pushing herself to make every summer basketball camp & practice and every volleyball camp & practice. Gritting through an unexplained bout of exhaustion to be able to go volleyball camp and when she got back found that her hemoglobin was extremely low. Looking back now she made it look so easy. She never asked why me and never complained about having to go to the hospital all the time. Just took everything and everyday for what it was.
Four long months later, by the grace of God and Jeni’s great attitude, she had been a complete responder to her chemo therapy. She was able to forgo radiation due to the fact she responded so well to the chemo and was part of the study group. She has had her port removed and all tests have come back negative for cancer.
Jeni’s hair has started to grow back. She played varsity volleyball her senior year and made all league and all district honors. Best of all she was able to make a trip to Cedar Point and even swam a little.
Jeni’s beautiful smile is still ever present, and every day finds her growing stronger and ready for anything!
I made this storyboard to show off Jeni’s personality. We had to cut our session short due to rain, but that didn’t stop her! Most girls I know wouldn’t dream of getting a formal dress wet–let alone dance in the rain. As I was searching the internet for quotes, I came across one and instantly thought I could hear Jeni saying this. Congrats and good luck Jeni as you attend Ohio Northern for Volleyball. I’m sure you’ll choose a major soon.