God's Brave Women - Jenny's Story
As I write this, I ask the question that won’t be answered this side of Heaven. Why? I ask this in the moments of exhaustion or those moments when I attempt to wrap my mind around all that I’ve been through. I want and need to know that there is a purpose for all of this. I close my eyes, shut out all the noise, and remember the one verse that has carried me through, when I didn’t have the energy to stand or receive one more piece of bad news.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” -Jeremiah 29:11
I was, and still am, strong-willed and determined. At times that has served me well, other times not so much. I grew up always feeling like there was something wrong with me, like I wasn’t enough. I would do anything and everything I could to receive the approval that I still find myself longing for today. It was the beginning of my question… Why?
I married the love of my life at eighteen. I knew I wanted a family, though not right away, but a family with three children at the very least. We had just celebrated being married nine years, and we were finally ready. I went to my doctor and was informed I would need help getting pregnant, but much to our surprise one month later we were expecting. We were beyond ecstatic!
I didn’t have the easiest pregnancy. The baby wasn’t growing as they would like. At 30 weeks, the doctor had a feeling that I would go early, and the decision was made to give me steroid shots to help the baby’s lungs. At 31 weeks, I went in to be checked because something didn’t seem right. The doctor decided that he didn’t want to take any chances. I was going to be on hospital bedrest for the next six weeks at least.
The next morning several nurses and doctors came into the room, and within thirty minutes, I was wheeled off for an emergency C-section. Will was born at 9:23am and weighed only 2 pounds 3 ounces. There was a long road ahead, but God continued to show His goodness throughout the entire ordeal. For such a little guy it was unheard of to not need oxygen, but he never did. He scored a 9 out of 10 on the tests, and the doctors and nurses were completely shocked.
I went in for my six-week follow up and found out I have a blood clotting disorder. While the disorder itself isn’t rare, the likelihood of two mutated genes is. I had the two mutated genes. It explained Will’s small size because the placenta clotted and stopped at 24 weeks. Mothers with this type of condition who are not on blood thinners have about an 85% chance of having a stillborn baby or miscarrying. There was no medical reason that Will survived. He truly had beat the odds and was our miracle baby.
We spent a total of sixty-one days in the NICU. There were a few setbacks, but Will continued to flourish and progress. We felt blessed, we had survived a tough couple of months. I felt like I should be praising God for all of our blessings and just be grateful, but inside I felt isolated and my heart felt broken. Preemies require extra care and precautions, so all of those fun classes for new moms and babies just were not possible for us. Still, I remember thinking to myself that if this was the worst of it, we could get through anything. I had no idea what was about to turn our world upside down.
In the summer of 2010, at two and a half years old, Will had what we thought was just a summer bug. After several days and no improvement, an ultrasound was ordered. Later, my phone rang, and it was Will’s pediatrician. He said that we needed to head to the children’s hospital in Iowa City immediately because they had found a very large mass on Will’s liver. I sobbed and could hardly speak. I knew he wasn’t supposed to answer me without definitive testing, but I asked anyway. “Is this cancer?” His response was what I feared. “Yes, I am very sure this is cancer.” Every single thing stopped. This could not be happening. We had already been through so much. Why? Why us again?
“Is this cancer?” His response was what I feared. “Yes, I am very sure this is cancer.” Every single thing stopped. This could not be happening. We had already been through so much. Why? Why us again?"
Two days later it was confirmed that Will had Stage 3 liver cancer. It hadn’t spread, however, the tumor was so large that it was pressing on other organs and was consuming the majority of his liver. We were angry, we were confused. Two-year olds do not get cancer. I found myself continuing to ask Why?
Will endured a total of eight rounds of chemotherapy, three surgeries (one of them emergent), had 75% of his liver removed and was declared in remission in May of 2011 and has remained in remission ever since. Will’s chance of survival from a medical standpoint was only 5 to 10%. When I asked his pediatrician about these odds, he choked up. He never dreamed Will would still be here, and if we didn’t believe in miracles before, he hoped we did now. What further proof that we serve a big God!
It is hard to express all of the emotions and heartache we experienced. We have watched families collapse after hearing there is nothing more that can be done for their child. We had people become really good friends, and now they are in the arms of Jesus. For us, there were so many setbacks, so many “close calls.” Many have said they don’t know how we did it. I do. We had, and still have, faith in a God who loves us more than we can imagine, and I wouldn’t have wanted to endure this without Him.
"Many have said they don’t know how we did it. I do. We had, and still have, faith in a God who loves us more than we can imagine, and I wouldn’t have wanted to endure this without Him."
As time has passed and the threat of Will’s chance of relapse becomes less and less, I stop and reflect. Maybe He wanted me to ask Why? Not because He was going to provide me with the answers, but because He wanted me to continue to seek Him. Those days I feel like I am not enough, or when I question whether I could have done something different for my son, I choose to give it to Him and cling to hope.
God has placed on my heart the desire to speak, the desire to write, the desire to tell our story. I believe He has given me a gift throughout all of this pain and anguish. I can truly understand the fear, anger, and emotional pain another parent goes through when they receive a frightening or life-threatening diagnosis. Right now, where I am at in this moment is enough. I have a desire to reach others, to love with all of my heart, and to help other women be brave. I am here with open arms for other families who have received news that has turned their world upside down. God has made each of us brave women because He loves us, and when we trust in Him there is nothing we cannot do.
Jenny lives in Cedar Rapids, IA with her husband of 20 years, Brian, and their amazing 10-year-old son, Will. Presently, Jenny works from home as an online bookkeeper, although her true passion is writing. Her greatest joy has been raising Will and connecting with other families in the childhood cancer community. This next year Jenny and Brian are going to be taking a “leap of faith” and trusting God by making a huge decision for their family, so stay tuned for more! Jenny loves to connect with people and would love the opportunity to connect with you. You can contact her on Facebook @jenny.olson.56 or feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.