She's also a survivor.
She was one of the first ( or, perhaps the first) children in our area born with the Lamaze system of childbirth. She was also the first child in that hospital to be placed under their just purchased bilirubin light -- some thing she was not pleased about and she made her displeasure known. She was an affectionate, lovely child and, until she was three years old and until a playmate (that little @#$% Cheryl from upstairs) decided she would looked better with her hair cut, she had beautiful long golden curls. They came back, but Cheryl remained a little @#$% until her family moved; one hopes that Cheryl did not grow into a big @#$% but the odds on that are slim.
Jessamyn was born with a birthmark on the top of her scalp. When she was five, Kitty noticed that it seemed to be changing slightly. After months of pushing and prodding by us, she was diagnosed with a rare cancer. The biopsy they took did not heal and she had to have the wound cauterized weekly for well over a month. (Try cauterizing a five-year-old -- just try. It hurt but Jessamyn and her five-year-old bravery stood up well against it each time.) We were told by a specialist brought in from Boston this particular cancer never is diagnosed until puberty and by the time it is diagnosed it was invariably fatal. The surgeon told us he had to go back to the books the night before to find out what he could about this particular cancer. The nurses in the children's ward had never hard of this type of cancer and expected a very sickly child, not an active little girl whose grandfather has just taught her to do wheelies down the hall in her wheelchair.
The surgery went fine. The cancer was completely encapsulated and was totally excised. Since then, every mole of growth had to be biopsied just in case. Her pediatrician told her that her middle name was 'Take-it-out." When she was twelve, the scar appeared to be changing, so it was back to the operating table. This time it was just the scar healing over itself; after the operation she was left with a much smaller scar. Then, early in high school, she hurt herself in gym (I think, my memory's hazy), an x-ray was taken, showing a dark area on he thigh, just where it joined the hip. So then we began to go trough another round of doctors. One expert wasn't sure whether it was osteosarcoma while his partner said, of course it was. finally we went to Boston Children's Hospital where the head of pediatric surgery told us it was not cancer, merely a bone cyst that had "pearlized." (Whatever that meant.)
There were a passel of other childhood injuries and emergencies, but through it all Jessamyn remained happy, spending her youth smiling and playing.
Her next big test came when her husband dropped dead from a heart attack in the living room one Sunday morning. He was 31 and it happened in front of their girls, age 7 and 9. He died just a few months before their tenth anniversary, meaning that Jessamyn did not receive his benefits. A month earlier, Jessamyn had filled forms for his life insurance through his work, but it turns out he had forgotten about it and never turned the forms in. She and the girls moved in with us that night. they stayed with us for several years until Jessamyn decided she and the girls should strike out on their own. As a single mother working low-paying or under-paying jobs one had to admire her grit and determination in making a good home for her girls.
When she moved down to Florida to be with us, she eventually got a good job that she enjoys and that has great benefits. The benefits are important because shortly after she began work she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The health benefits have allowed her to concentrate on fighting the disease, rather than worrying if she could afford the care. And it's working. Despite the nausea and tiredness, she appears to be winning this battle. She has one more round of chemo to go through and then she and her doctors will decide on the next course of action. Meanwhile, both girls are going to college and the future appears bright.
I cannot begin to say how much I am proud of her and how much she inspires me. Through all of the ups and downs, no matter what life has thrown at her, she remains upbeat, happy, determined, and caring.
Our little girl has grown to be a remarkable woman.
We love her.
Tonight is a night for cake and family. Whatever tomorrow brings is in the future -- a future I think we can all look forward to.