Jennifer’s Story

Site created on October 13, 2018

I have had some back pain in and off over the past few weeks, maybe months. Nothing too terrible and I brushed it of as just part of being a nurse, having a sore back. A little Biofreeze, Tylenol and Naproxen and I was fine. 

Tuesday, September 25th, 2018 was different. It was slated to be a busy day. My husband Patrick had emergency gallbladder surgery the night before and should be discharged later that day, I had an appointment at work, and when I got back to town I had two classes at the college.

My work appointment was scheduled for 8:00am so I got up at 6:00am and as I sat up I felt a loud pop and pain like I’ve never felt before. But life goes on, right? So I took my medicine and got dressed. Slowly. I drove to Olathe. In pain the whole time. Quick meeting then I drove back. I took a shower hoping the heat would relieve the pain. It didn’t, so I decided that as soon as I finished my classes today I would finally make the trip to the ER I had been dreading because what happened with my dad (diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer and gone 30 days later) was on my mind the whole time.

I made it through my first class. The second class? Didn’t happen. I drove to the hospital and being a slow day I got right in. After a dose of pain medication, I was pain free for the first time in in months. They sent lab work off and I caught up on a couple of my shows I missed while I waited. Well actually, I napped. Next up was a Cat scan of my abdomen/pelvis. The original thought was maybe my gallbladder that should have come out years ago was the culprit. Or maybe kidney stones.

I napped a little longer. Then the door opened and the ER doctor, my nurse, someone I didn’t recognize and my new family doctor (poor thing, I’ve only seen her once) came in, my husband fresh from his surgery behind. My heart sunk. You don’t get a group like this if your gallbladder is messed up. You don’t get it because of kidney stones.

My doctor told me I have spots on my spine. Elevated protein in my urine. And a couple other problematic labs. She told me I have cancer. What kind we won’t know until further testing. We don’t know if it’s a primary bone cancer or a metastasis. She said some of the labs indicate multiple myeloma but we won’t know until additional testing is done.

I would be lying if I said I’m not terrified. Actually? I’m scared and numb and blame myself for not going in when the pain first started. But I lived in denial. The first thought I had was this is what happened to dad.

I guess I’m at peace with whatever happens. I’m not ready though. I’m 43 years old. My kids are still young. I have little grandkids and nieces. I haven’t seen much of the world. There are so many things I still want to accomplish.

The next few weeks will be a nervous time. Tests to identify what kind of cancer it is. Luckily because I work at Olathe Med, I know of two excellent oncologists already so I don’t need to worry about that. I’m going to be off work for a while as I have a fractured vertebra. Did I exacerbate it at work or did it break when I got up today? Hard telling. I’ve dropped my college classes because I will miss too many due to various appointments.

Please I don’t normally ask this, but I am going to now. Please pray for us. Even if you aren’t religious, say a quick prayer. We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement. Who knows, maybe it will do something. Help my kids be strong. I’m numb, but I can tell they are scared. The one thing I loved most about being a young mom is I would have many years to spend with kids and grandkids. I’m 43. I don’t feel sick in any way. My back hurts. And I might die. I’m scared.

I’m sorry this is so long. Thanks for your prayers in advance. Thank you for visiting.

My daughter has started a page to help with medical costs and the loss of my income. If you would like to help out, click here (https://www.gofundme.com/69b5fbk&rcid=r01-153949386098-a0c3dfceb25e44d1&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w).

Newest Update

Journal entry by Jennifer Falk

Hello prayer warriors! I'm sorry I haven't updated all ya'll in a bit, but it's been a busy month with my bucket list trip, then the holidays, and finally my fun little game of bumper tag with the semi last Saturday. I'm still waiting for news on my California and Arizona nursing license applications, however sadly I need to get my Arizona fingerprints re-done because they didn't like the card that was used for them. So that will slow the process down a bit. I've had some wonderful conversations with nursing recruiters and learned a lot about the travel nursing process.

Last Saturday I was traveling to Nebraska to see my younger brother, and had a freak accident with a semi. My guardian angel watched out for me and I walked away without so much as a scratch, although I was terribly shaken up. The insurance appraiser looked at it this week, and broke my heart when he told me that it was beyond repair. The good thing is we received more than we anticipated for the payout. That helped greatly as I searched for a replacement vehicle and yesterday Morgan and I raced against the incoming snow storm to test drive the car I wanted. It is one model year newer than mine, but is the same color as it was except for the interior. It is a tan color. I will miss my beautiful slate grey interior, but wasn't going to let a small detail like that bother me and I paid my deposit to hold it. Next week it will be mine!

My other exciting news is how my treatment is going. I started two new medications after my December appointment. No more Tamoxifen, and I started Letrozole and an oral chemotherapy drug called Ibrance. Sadly, I seem to be waging a battle against nausea and even some vomiting from time to time. But I take a couple pills a day. Compared to some other people, my treatment is easy so I don't feel as though I have a right to complain. My pain is much better controlled than it had been and I am down to my scheduled pain medication and maybe 2-3 pills for breakthrough pain. Compared to the 24 pills a day I was taking back in October, I feel that things are taking a great turn.

My doctor was very pleased about my bloodwork. The new med I am on has some serious possible side effects on lab work, but mine came back very good. As he reviewed all them with me he kept saying how pleased he was. His physical exam went just as well. He said that the dimpling the tumor caused is almost gone and he had difficulty palpating it so clearly it has shrunk. I asked him the question that has scared me to think about since this all began. Does he think I will be able to work in a hospital as a nurse again? I was pleasantly surprised to hear him respond with 'I don't see why not.' We are going to make some changes to my pain medications next month and he is going to do some scans to see how my bones are responding. I'm crossing my fingers that next month I can make my long-awaited return to the job I love so much. Another dose of Xgeva to strengthen my bones, and my day came to an end.

The stressful part about my lab work is the one that's most important is one they need to send to an outside lab for processing. So I sit on pins and needles until it posts to my online account, which is normally 2 1/2 days after my appointment. Yesterday, my doctor had his nurse to tell me the great news. My tumor marker had dropped to 60, down from the original 83. We want it to get below 39. My cancer is responding very well! I've been super nervous with the medication change to know if things were still on the right track. I almost screamed with happiness when I got off the phone. Yes, the medicine sucks because I struggle with nausea, but it's saving my life, so who cares?

So, sorry for the long post again, but I am another day closer to getting my life back. One day closer to returning to the job I love. And another day has passed that I am still here. The power of prayer does work. I believe it more and more every day. Thanks to all of you for your continuing support. You all mean everything to my family and me. Thanks for the cards, the gifts, the food, and even the kind words when we run into you in the grocery store or Wal*Mart. We have tried very hard to get thank you cards out to everyone and I know we have missed a few people and I am so sorry. Don't take that as us not appreciating your gift, because we have never been so overwhelmed with love as we have during the past few months.

Thanks for your continued support! I love you all! I’ve never been so blessed! 💙💗💚

My daughter has started a page to help with medical costs and the loss of my income. If you would like to help out, click here.
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