Meet our team: Jennifer Kelly

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This is the second time I’ve been asked to write about myself and I gotta admit, it’s kinda hard to talk about yourself. Who would even be interested in reading about me? But in all fairness, everyone has a story, so here’s part of mine, maybe it will help someone. 

I have worked in the emergency services industry for what seems like forever, about 16 years now. I started out as a 911 Operator, then moved on to being a Police Dispatcher, and have ended up being a Transcriptionist, typing polices statements for court at the local RCMP Detachment. During the last 16 years I met my husband and we welcomed two great kids. I am mom to Nate, 6 years old and Olivia 3 years old. We live a happy and busy life in Maple Ridge. 

After I had Olivia in 2014 I decided to take a Leave of Absence from my Dispatch job and focus on home life with my family. Little did I know, this was going to turn my life upside down. After Olivia turned 1 in 2015 I began my leave for an extra year. Within a few weeks I found a very small lump in my breast. I had an appointment for Olivia to see our doctor and when I went in for that appointment I asked him to check the lump. He did feel it, and asked the routine question, “Any family history of breast cancer?” No. He decided to send me for an ultrasound to ease my mind, I am so thankful he did. A few weeks later I was in for my ultrasound, the ultrasound tech and radiologist both noticed something on my scans and recommended a mammogram. So next door I went for a mammogram. After that they requested I return within a week for a biopsy of the lump in my breast. After I was asked to return I knew I had breast cancer, I’m not sure why, I just knew it. 

July 4 2015 was a Saturday. I was sitting in the chair at my hairdresser’s and my phone rang, it was my doctor’s office asking me to come in, on a Saturday? At that point my worst fears were confirmed. At 33 years old, in the best shape of my life, I had breast cancer. Devastation, shock, horror, and hysterics are the only words I can use to explain the days that proceeded this. I was completely numb to reality, but life went on. I met with a surgeon to discuss my options for surgery. I was given all the options and decided on a double mastectomy for myself. This is a very difficult decision for a woman to make, but this was the decision that was best for me. August 6 2015 I underwent my double mastectomy and they tested my lymph nodes to see if the cancer had spread. After the surgery was complete I had to wait about two weeks but then I got the news I was waiting to hear, the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes. I had caught it early enough. I was so grateful. I met with an oncologist towards the end of September and opted to go ahead with chemotherapy. I knew this was going to be a very difficult time for me and my family, but I needed to be here for my kids. I needed to know that I had done everything that I possibly could. So I did it. I had a total of 21 chemotherapy treatments over 14 months. I lost all of my hair, my eyelashes and eyebrows. The first 4 months of chemo were the worst. I underwent 8 of the most aggressive treatments making me unable to care for my family for weeks at a time. Thankfully I have the most amazing mom and dad who stepped up and helped us during this time. 

After the 8 aggressive treatments were complete I was now on the road to recovery and as of the day of my double mastectomy I was considered breast cancer free. The remaining treatments were still chemo, the side effects were minimal and I was able to go about my normal life with no major inconveniences except 1 hour out of my Tuesday every 3 weeks to see my oncologist and have the chemo administered. Over the last 12 months I have begun and almost completed breast reconstruction surgeries. I still have one more minor procedure to undergo, but I am so pleased with how everything turned out. 

I feel like I have been given a second chance at life. I have a bigger appreciation for the little things. It’s terrible to have to go through this at any age, but going through this now has almost been one of the best things that has ever happened to me funny enough. I am a better mom, wife and friend. I don’t settle, and I go for after what I really want. Anything worth achieving is worth the hard work, and it’s never easy and comfortable. That’s why it’s so satisfying. 

I have known of Mandy for a very long time, but only had the privilege of getting to call her my trainer and friend this Spring. She had been someone I followed on social media for a while, her workouts were everything I was into. Crossfit, running, yoga, I loved it all. Once I was through all of my surgeries I knew I needed to get back into fitness. Health and wellness had always been important to me, but it had now become a passion of mine. Mandy transformed me. She’s completely pushed me out of my comfort zone and shown me what I can accomplish, things I never thought would be possible I have done. And I love it. I’ve become a spin addict. Soul Cycle opened in Yaletown and I make the 60 minute trek to Vancouver more than I’d like to admit to ride, and I love every second of it. The people, the instructors, the atmosphere, everything about it. And every time I feel like I can’t climb one more hill, I think about how far I’ve come and I crank that knob one more turn to the right and keep climbing. 

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month comes to a close, I hope that this post has inspired anyone reading it to check your breasts. Do it on the 1st of the month, it only takes a few minutes and could save your life. I know my breast checks saved mine. As a wife and mom we put our kids and our husbands first, but as much as we advocate for them every single day, sometimes we have to put ourselves first and make sure we’re okay, otherwise, we might not be there to do it for them. 

Health and Happiness Always!!

 xo ~ J 

Health/NutritionMandy Gill