In our third and final blog post during our Stand Firm Against Cancer campaign we hear from Jennifer Hite, a beloved member of The Firm’s Family. Read her inspiring interview about her experience with cancer below! We still have four classes left to raise money for cancer research, click here for more info!
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
-My name is Jen Hite. I’m 41-years old and live in Minneapolis. At 35, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After treatment, and the subsequent dramatic change in life perspective, I resigned from my career in the financial industry and returned to grad school for nursing. I’ve been going to the Firm for about 2 years now, and don’t know how I would vent the stress and frustrations of school without this amazing group of people motivating me the entire way!
2. What type of cancer were you diagnosed with, and when did you receive your diagnosis?
-I was diagnosed with stage I invasive breast cancer in February 2011. I found it when putting on a sports bra to go work out. It was about half the size of a pencil eraser.
3. Obviously, cancer puts your whole life on hold. Do you remember a specific moment when you were hit by this realization?
-It’s been over five years now, and it’s funny, the things you remember. The diagnosis and the surgery felt like a whirlwind. My brain didn’t slow down enough to feel that anything was on hold. However, after the surgery, and particularly during chemo, it felt as if my life (read: energy level) hit a brick wall. Before the diagnosis, I was working out and running 4-5 days a week. That quickly changed, as half-way through chemo, I couldn’t climb the stairs to my second-floor apartment without stopping to rest. You know those days after an extremely hard workout, where you’ve exhausted every single muscle in your body, and you feel like your arms and legs weigh 50 pounds each? That’s how it felt. After chemo wrapped up, I returned to work and my energy slowly returned. I started walking and eventually working out again. Somewhere during that time, life resumed and became my “new normal”.
4. How long were you in treatment? What helped keep your spirits up and gave you support during this period?
-Treatment consisted of 6 rounds of chemotherapy for 5 months, weekly targeted chemotherapy for 1 year, and a few years of Tamoxifen. Rebounding from the “rat poison” chemo felt like it took forever. I suffered from chemo brain and low energy for several months. During this time, friends and family were everything. The amount of support I received from friends, family, and even complete strangers, was invaluable, and that is something you never forget. The simplest gesture from a friend could turn the worst day around, and laughing was medicine for the soul. It was beautiful! I tried to remain as active as I could too. I’d often walk around my neighborhood, the lakes, or even the Mall of America if the weather wasn’t ideal. I started volunteering more as well. It served as a great reminder that we are all dealt crappy circumstances sometimes (suck it up, buttercup), and I simply enjoy helping others.
5. As someone who has been through what you have, what would you say to members of our community going through a cancer diagnosis personally, or one of a loved one?
–To those suffering: you are much stronger than you think. You will face some of the worst days you will ever know, but you will persevere and grow in ways you’ve never imagined. You are part of the “C Club” now. Nobody wants to be a member, but once you are, your perspective will change and your compassion for others will grow in bounds. Most survivors I’ve encountered are very open and willing to share their experiences. Learning from another person’s experience and recommendations can help you navigate through this confusing and overwhelming time.
To those supporting others: always be kind, compassionate, and empathetic. Most people have known someone who has been through cancer and the treatment, and not everybody will respond the same way. But, kind gestures, random emails or phone calls, helping with cleaning and cooking, or just hanging out with them at home, will make your loved one’s journey a little smoother. There is no way to prepare for what lies ahead after a cancer diagnosis, but unconditional love will always be a great place to start.
Thank you for sharing your story with us Jennifer, we LOVE you!