In 1968, while living in another state, Jennifer Chevalier was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Doctors said she had six months to live, but she proved them wrong. The greatest lessons she learned from the experience are that she’s a survivor and to live — really live — every day.
She adopted the motto: This is the last time I’ll see this day.
Fast forward to 2005 when a mammogram at Harris Health Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital revealed a lump in her left breast. Jennifer is very matter of fact about the story. She had an ultrasound, needle biopsy and a lumpectomy. The tumor was malignant, but she was fine.
“After my first experience with cancer,” she says, “I never worried about it. I knew I would be okay.”
In 2012, a mammogram spotted cancer in her right breast. She had a double mastectomy and radiation. Chemotherapy was not an option due to kidney problems caused by the chemo treatment during the 1960s.
She took everything in stride, missing 17 days of work for the first breast cancer and four months for the second. A part-time companion for the elderly, Jennifer considers her time with clients as fun, rather than work.
“Can’t is not in my vocabulary. Being tired didn’t stop me. I learned to live without stress, and I refused to let cancer be a stressor. I knew the doctors had it under control. The doctors are really, really good. They care. So do the nurses. It’s nice to go someplace where people are glad to see you. I’m grateful for LBJ.”
She encourages other breast cancer patients. “Accept the fact that it’s happened. It’s only a breast. It doesn’t define you. If you have a loving family, accept their support. Let friends help.
“Be careful with your attitude. You may not want cancer, but there’s something you can learn from it. It can’t take your spirit. Live each day.”