Smart Health Challenge Week 9: Jess Reed shares her cancer story, asks for help

Last week, Jess Reed reflected on her emotions. This week, she talks more about past physical and mental battles, including her fight against cancer. Read on, and offer Jess your support.

May 28

First of all, I want to say this blogging every day is getting difficult! I just don’t think my life is that interesting, and it is getting challenging to figure out what to say! Today, I did my program, but the gym was closed, so I did a program at home. After my program, we went over to a neighbor’s house to sit by the pool a bit and relax; Mindy and her family were there. It is nice to see her outside of the gym and just hang out. I, of course, still had anxiety about getting into a swimsuit, but I was happy to discover that a bathing suit I didn’t fit into last summer is actually too big me on me now (not that I feel like a rock star or anything). While losing the weight feels great, I am still not at a place where I am in the least bit comfortable with my body. I still look down when I am working out, so I don’t have to see myself in the mirror. I am just getting tired of thinking about this challenge all the time. I am tired of always thinking about what I am putting in my mouth, tired of going to the gym, tired of thinking about what to say. I need some rejuvenation and I am just not sure how to get it. Maybe if I heard from some of you, it would help; is anyone out there? If you scroll down to the bottom of this page, there is a place to leave comments; leave me one! I would love to hear from you!

May 29

Back in the saddle again. I took blended this morning and it hurt so bad and was so tiring, I almost didn’t make it through. I got my period today, and usually I can work through it, but it was a bad one. I had uterine and cervical cancer a few years ago, and the treatment of radiation and chemo left me with a condition called endometriosis. When I am cramping, it tugs on my uterine walls and everything in my stomach hurts (including the scars from my C-sections). I laid in bed most of the afternoon, and luckily by the evening I was able to move around and have dinner with my family. Going through something like cancer really gives you an appreciation for life; it is one of the things that drove me to enter this challenge. Here is my story:

It was a warm April day in 2009 and like everyone else with children I was busily preparing for Easter. I had gone in for my annual gynecological exam 2 weeks prior and the last thing on my mind was the results of my tests. Like most women, I was in fact trying my best to forget the humility of the experience. One would think after having three children all of my modesty about that region of my body would be gone, but in fact I was clinging to it like one would cling to the notion that the cake you ate last night didn’t count because you had a Diet Coke with it. The phone rang and I quickly picked it up in hopes that it didn’t wake my sleeping child, in the moments after I said “Hello,” my life changed forever. My will to live and my families’ constitution was tested in a way I could not have imagined. Have any of you been truly tested yet? What or who got you through?

The solemn voice of my doctor rang out over the line, telling me that my test results were “concerning.” First of all, let me say that my definition of concerning and my doctor’s definition of concerning are totally different. Concerning to me is when I see my designated driver huddled in the corner doing shots and I know I will spend a decent amount of time that evening trying to find a ride home. Concerning to my doctor is that my tests showed I had cancer. Cancer isn’t concerning; cancer is terrifying! In my head I was shouting, I can’t have cancer; I have three children and 12 people coming over for Easter dinner! It was at that moment I started fighting for my life. It was in that moment I knew that my children needed me and that the Easter ham would NOT cook itself.

After making an appointment for the day after Easter with an oncologist, I sat at my kitchen table in shock. Thoughts were running around my mind on repeat, how am I going to tell my husband, how am I going to tell my kids, all the while wondering if I was going to die. After an hour my youngest woke up, he called out my name and when I reached his room and he looked up and smiled at me. I knew, I would not ALLOW myself to die. I could not give up those smiles. That evening when my children went to bed I sat my husband down and after many drinks told him the news. Together we told our families, and that is when I witnessed what I had always heard, when the chips are down your family and friends will rally around you, and lift you up. After a drunken, tearful Easter my family sprung into action, and I will forever be humbled by the love and support I have in my life.

For the next eight months I underwent a number of different treatments, from chemotherapy to radiation. I spent a lot of time in my room in those eight months, and it gave me a lot of time to think about my life and while on heavy pain killers, various other things. My friends would come visit, lay in bed with me and eat cherry Rita’s Italian Ice all the while we were secretly thinking that we wished we were eating frozen margaritas. We talked about life, our pasts and our future. My husband fed the kids, took care of the house, our dog and me. He took care of the practical things, and my friends took care of my soul. In moments when my body was at its weakest, my heart was at its strongest. I realized I needed to be a better wife, a better mother and most importantly I needed to repaint my room because I actually hated the color! It didn’t matter that I had only picked out that color only months before, it was ugly. There was no place in my life anymore for ugly. I was appalled at the side effects of my treatments and the horrible things they did to my body, all the while secretly loving the fact that I didn’t need to shave my legs!

My body has been cancer free now for more than two years, but the mark the disease left on me will last a life time. It tested every single part of me, and every single relationship I had in my life. I got through what I did, not just because I had the will to live, but because my family and friends also gave me their strength. I learned that you should never take for granted what you have, never put off your dreams, and never, ever doubt the power of a child’s smile, and oh yes, ALWAYS make time to drink margaritas in bed.

May 30

I went and worked out with Mindy today, I was a little nervous going in that I wouldn’t be able to do everything, but I did fine. I am just still exhausted, and the only thing I can think is that this workout combined with the pain is taking a real toll on my body. I just keep telling myself that I need to push through, so that is what I am doing (so far).

May 31

I took today as my off day, I was just exhausted and needed to recover from the beginning of the week. I really was able to rejuvenate myself today and give my body the rest it needs. It is always important to listen to your body, BUT you must be sure that your mind isn’t telling you something that you translate into your body talking. Don’t make it easy on yourself to give up! In the past, I was GREAT at making excuses for myself, and to some extent I still am, I just don’t let myself go there.

June 1

Back in the saddle, and at the gym doing my program. I then took my 4-year-old for his first swim lesson at the pool we joined for the summer. It was so nice to see him having a good time; I just long for the days that I can be as comfortable as him in my own skin. I can’t wait to sit by the pool without my cover-up on, or a towel wrapped around my waist. I don’t even remember what that feels like.

June 2

I went to Zumba this morning, and as usual, had a great time. Nina’s class is always a good time (even though I still mess up some of the steps).

One of the challenges of this whole thing is finding things to do with the children that don’t including eating unhealthy food. Today we decided to go and pick fresh strawberries, and it was a great time! The kids really enjoyed it, and now we have fresh fruit for the week. You need to reprogram yourself, go take a walk on the rail trail with your children, or go to the park, anything other than go out for ice cream or eat at McDonald’s. Food is not love!

June 3

Today is usually my off day, but since I took it Thursday, I didn’t get that luxury. Nothing too exciting going on; the only class Phases gives on Sunday is body flow, so I went to that. I always enjoy that class! The upcoming week is a weigh-in week, so of course I am feeling the butterflies already. I wasn’t able to work out as hard as I usually do, and I am sure that will show in my numbers. I am going to take a deep breath, accept my numbers for whatever they are, and have a BIG cocktail!


Read more:

Smart Health Challenge Week 8: Mindy Quesenberry breaks down mental battles

Smart Health Challenge Week 8: Jess Reed reflects on emotions

Smart Health Challenge Week 7: Mindy Quesenberry chats about cheating

Smart Health Challenge Week 7: Jess Reed trains with Mindy (on video)

Smart Health Challenge Week 6: Mindy Quesenberry on feeling the need for exercise

Smart Health Challenge Week 6: Jess Reed finds sense of humor at ’80s prom

Smart Health Challenge Week 5: Jess Reed gets caught with cupcakes

Smart Health Challenge Week 5: Mindy Quesenberry gets real

Smart Health Challenge Week 4: Jess Reed feels the sting of exercise, rewards of weight loss

Smart Health Challenge Week 4: Mindy Quesenberry addresses Jess Reed’s struggles

Smart Health Challenge Week 3: Jess Reed shares her schedule

Smart Health Challenge Week 3: Mindy Quesenberry offers suggestions to stay motivated

Smart Health Challenge Week 2: Jess Reed starts working out, eats celery during Bunco night

Smart Health Challenge Week 2: Mindy Quesenberry weighs in

Smart Health Challenge Week 1: Jess Reed sets up her fitness and nutrition plan

Jess Krout

Multiplatform features copy editor at York Daily Record/Sunday News. Follow me on Twitter @JessKrout. Email jkrout@ydr.com or call 717-771-2002.

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6 Responses

  1. Nina Cassino says:

    You are an inspiration and a true joy to know through this Challenge, through Phases, and through lacrosse. I am never bored by your blogs, but appreciate your honesty and upfront attitude that screams “here I am, take me for what I am.” We all struggle. Last week I skipped BOTH my Program days and still feel guilty about it. We are all tested in different ways. I struggle to feel worthy, so I push myself to the limit and put insane amounts of pressure on myself to do good and feel good about myself. You know what? I am worthy and need to sit back and remind myself every day that I am ‘Good Enough’ (Sarah McLaughlin song). You are a good person, a good mom, a sweet friend, and a terrific Zumba class butt shaker ~ seriously, your shakin’ is improvin! I am impressed with your progress and know nothing is going to stop you now. Like you said, you will push through this Challenge, like we all push through day-to-day challenges in our lives and will be sitting pool-side in a sweet little bathing suit next year at this time :) I’m here for you every step of the way with much admiration and support! Get em girl.

  2. Loved this post. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless you and your family.

  3. Tonya Edmondson says:

    Have Confidence in Your Abilities

    Within you is a spirit capable of touching the stars.
    Within you is the ability to achieve your goals and make your dreams come true.
    Don’t listen to others negativity or fear competition, or worry about wrong choices.
    In every experience there is wisdom to be gained.
    Have Faith in yourself and move ahead with confidence, believing that you will meet your goals and be the unique, beautiful person that you are.

  4. colleen igo says:

    Jess – Keep working out, keep writing, and keep your witty sense of humor. I love reading your blogs. I am amazed at your committment and your willingness to share your life with your us. :)

  1. June 6, 2012

    [...] Smart Health Challenge Week 9: Jess Reed shares her cancer story, asks for help [...]

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    [...] Trotter ShareTweetJess says none of her old clothes fit anymore.Last week, Jess Reed shared her emotional cancer story and reminded readers that she could use a little [...]

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