Smarties, this week’s “momination” is very special to me for two reasons. First, it came in from one of my closest buds all the way back from old school 9th grade, Wendy Peterson, and her good friend and breast cancer survivor, Lisa Moon. Secondly and most importantly, we want to kick off the upcoming Susan G Komen Charlotte Walk in advance so that our Smarty community can rally around our local pink (& green!) warriors fighting for their lives. Wendy & Lisa have a wonderful woman in their lives who has been battling breast cancer for almost 10 years now. Meet Jennifer Sherrel, Stage IV breast cancer survivor, mom of precious 7-1/2-year old son, Nathan (Super Nate!), and wife to the love of her life, Bryan. I’m turning it over to Wendy, Lisa and friends for an official Smarty introduction!
Jennifer is definitely a “Smarty Mom” along with being a terrific friend, wife, sister, etc. Whether you have met Jennifer Sherrel for a brief moment or have known her a lifetime, she makes a positive impact in your life. She is someone who puts everyone first and whatever she does she does 110%. For example, after Hurricane Katrina she went to volunteer as a nurse at the old Coliseum in Charlotte and ended up spending countless hours there to help. Jennifer has such tremendous strength and a great appreciation for everything and everyone. She was diagnosed with breast cancer after being married for a short time and since then she has been actively involved in breast cancer awareness and raising money for breast cancer research. Jennifer and her husband, Bryan, adopted a beautiful boy from Russia in 2003 and she said she fell in love with their son, Nathan, the second she laid eyes on him. She has so many people who love her for who she is and I’m very lucky to call her ‘friend’!
Jennifer is brave and strong, she has never met a stranger. She will inspire you to do more with your life or she will just make you because she never takes “no” for an answer when she believes in something. Jennifer is a warrior in pink or purple (her latest favorite color). As a fellow survivor, she is my “sister.” When I look into her eyes I see myself, we have an understanding that we can only share with each other. Not with our friends, family or spouses who could never truly understand. I know the pain, the fear, the joy and the uncertainty that she feels every single day. She really is my soul sister. She is the person who I would hope to be if my cancer were to return. Jennifer is my hero.
Here’s Tonia Cox:
You’ve always heard “attitude is a small thing that makes a big difference”. I think it was said by Winston Churchill but it has been lived by Jennifer Sherrel. Her spirit, faith, and determination is an inspiration to everyone around her. It amazes me everyday that she can have such a positive attitude when being faced with all the terror that cancer brings with it. I sat with her in the doctors office when her oncologist went through the plan to attack the latest cancer that had spread to her lungs. There were no tears. She squeezed my hand and said “I am going to beat this”. I’m sitting there about to cry because I hate that she has to go through this all over again and she immediately starts talking about fundraisers and disco balls! Jennifer Sherrel certainly has attitude and she has certainly made a big difference in the fight against breast cancer.
OK, Smarties, let’s meet Jen!
How were you first diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer?
Six months after Bryan and I were married I found a lump in my breast, so I went to my OB/GYN and I was told, “You are TOO young and you are self-diagnosing yourself because you are a nurse. You should be out shopping!” After I left his office, I remembered from nursing school that breast cancer is irregular in shape and fixed and it doesn’t hurt. I was an ER nurse at that time, so I went to work and asked them to do an ultrasound. Sure enough, at 31 years old I had breast cancer! So, ladies, the moral of the story is that you know your body. If you believe something is wrong, be assertive and get a second opinion.
The first time I was diagnosed in 2001, I had a mastectomy and breast reconstruction, and then went through chemo and lost all of my hair . It was thought that we had gotten all the cancer and I was cancer free. I was in remission for three years before I was diagnosed the second time in 2004. I was in a lot of pain. So I went to the ER because I thought I had kidney stones or was having a gall bladder attack. It never crossed my mind that it could be cancer. It came back and it had metastasized to my liver and bones. Then, I was very fearful that I would not recover. I started aggressive chemo in Charlotte but with the urging of my family, I decided to get a second opinion at Johns Hopkins. It was there they told me I only had a few months to live. I came home and planned my funeral but did not give up the fight. Slowly, a miracle happened. The 9 tumors in my liver ( which is very hard to get rid of) has not been seen on scans for 3 years now! I learned in this fight to lean on God and my family and friends. Dig in and not to give up. There is no expiration date on any of us! I’ve been fighting to keep the cancer in my bones at bay (and have seen great improvements). At the beginning of the summer, the cancer now has spread to my lung. So the boxing gloves go back on.
You’ve been battling this for 10 years, what have you learned along the way that you’d like to share with other women battling breast cancer?
Actually it has been 9 1/2 years. What I’d like to share is — choose your attitude! That is half the battle and it takes you far in life. Don’t take things for granted. Make sure you often tell the people you love that you love them. Surround yourself with a support system and cut loose people that drain your energy and bring you down. But, most of all, I’ve learned to lean on my Savior and I’ve found amazing peace and grace in Christ.
What has been your biggest challenge as a family in battling breast cancer?
Our biggest challenge was to have to tell our son, Nathan, that I have cancer. We finally had to tell him this year because he is old enough now to realize something is wrong with his mom. The truth is, I didn’t want to tell Nathan that I have cancer because my mom died of cancer when she was 36 and I was 10 years old. I knew exactly the pain that losing your mom to cancer caused me as a young girl, and I just wanted to protect him from the same thing because I love him so much. My mom set a good tone for me when she told us that she had cancer and also as she went through everything that followed. I do remember her going through chemo and losing her hair. My mom tried to make things lighthearted. My siblings and I would ask our mom “why do you wear a wig?”, and she responded back by saying, “If I didn’t wear the wig, people would crash their cars because my bald head was just so beautiful. They would wonder who that beautiful bald lady is!” I can still hear her saying that in my head and how funny that was to us.
My husband and I decided that I would tell Nathan by myself, so he wouldn’t think it was really serious. Plus, he worries a lot anyway. I tried to approach it the way I remembered my mom approaching it with me and my siblings. We had told Nathan in the past that I was sick before he was born and I had taken medicine to make it go away, so he was aware that I had cancer at one point. When I sat down with him, I told him that ” the doctor wants to give me stronger medicine to make sure the cancer stays away, but this will mean mommy will lose her hair.” I told him we need to fight it like we are beating up bad guys! Nathan responded by saying, “we are going to kick the cancer in the nuts!”. (Don’t know where he got that expression, but it was way too funny to leave out of this!) We laughed together and said “yeah, that’s exactly what we are going to do” and then we pretended to karate chop. I wanted to be honest with him and not wait until I lost my hair before I told him. He asks a lot of questions and I try to answer them as truthfully as I can. It is important to set the right tone with your kids and help keep them strong, too.
This summer, it was hard to get babysitters and do things such as laundry and cooking. There have been logistical challenges as well, such as getting to chemo and doctor appointments almost every week. I’m so blessed to have a wonderful husband that has been extremely helpful and supportive throughout the years. Also, I’m blessed to have great friends and family that are there for me to get me where I need to go and pick me up when I’m feeling down.
Tell us about Team Jen-eration Cure (watch YouTube video at end of post) and how has this helped you cope?
Team Jen-eration Cure was started by my girlfriends last year for the Charlotte Komen Race for the Cure. Doing that made me feel overwhelmed with love and support. This year my friend, Sean O’Donnell, put this AWESOME video together for our team, Jen-eration Cure! He did a fantastic job, you have to watch it! Sean showed me the video after he was finished and asked if there was anything I’d like to change. I told him that I wouldn’t change a thing and that I loved the video. Of course, it meant so much to me that I was crying and laughing as I was telling him how much I loved it!
Now that the cancer has made it to my right lung, I have to do chemo for another year, after having recently gotten off both chemo and radiation. The video made a huge difference in giving me the strength and encouragement to keep on going for another year of chemo and to keep fighting this battle with everyone’s help. There are days when I am exhausted but keep going. This team and raising money and awareness for breast cancer research gives me something to get really excited about and look forward to. This fight is bigger than my situation and impacts more people than just me. It is a cause and a very important cause!
How do we score a Team Jen-eration Cure tee-shirt?
$12 each, a portion of the proceeds go to Komen.
OK, now that we’re all crying a river, let’s lighten it up a bit and tell us about your mommy likes! What is your favorite “mommy-time” activity?
Soaking in my hut tub in my back yard.
Favorite girls night out?
Shopping and a movie and then another movie!
Favorite place to take the whole fam to dinner?
Jason’s Deli because of the free ice cream… but our newest favorite is Newks in Ballantyne…their chicken salad is out of this world!
I like to go out to eat to a nice restaurant then head back to the house to sit out in the back patio by the fire pit and drink fine wine with a fine man and have great conversation.
Best kept secret in Charlotte?
Simply Fresh To You, Charlotte’s Ultimate Home Dining Experience! A girlfriend told me about it this year while I’ll was starting chemo and the meals ROCK! Great and healthy food delivered right to your door.
Minivan or SUV?
SUV all the way! – I LOVE my Tahoe because it has a 3rd row, it is American-made, it can haul a lot of kids around, and it makes me feel young and sporty!
Best book you’ve read?
I wish I had time to read 🙂
So many…hard to pick just one. I LOVE movies!!! Memoirs of a Geisha, Defiance, The Pursuit of Happiness, The Notebook, Blind Side
Best thing about raising a family in Charlotte?
Charlotte is a big enough city to offer many options of things to do and learn, like other larger cities, but it’s small enough to give you a small town feel. It is easy to make friends, establish roots, and live in a great community.
What would you like to share with your family and friends who have inspired the world through Team Jen-eration Cure?
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! You’ve given me another set of heavy-duty pink boxing gloves and I’m going to knock this cancer out no matter how many rounds it takes! I can’t begin to tell you how much I love you for creating Team Jen-eration Cure, the video, helping care for Nathan, feeding my family, making chemo bearable by your presence, and sharing so many precious moments with me in tears and laughter. I hope you know that what you’ve done for me and with me is not just for me, but for your moms, sisters, aunts, daughters, friends, and women you may never meet. You help keep me going and give me the reason to keep fighting. And remember, NOTHING is too hard for God!
Join Jennifer Sherrel’s Team Jen-eration Cure!
2010 Komen Charlotte Race for the Cure®
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Smarties, please share the video below for Team Jen-eration Cure with all of your family, friends, schools, you name it to spread the word about breast cancer awareness! Best of luck to Team Jen-eration Cure! We’re proud of you, Smarty girls!
Enter to win a $500 gift certificate from our friends at Drs. Hull & Coleman Orthodontics!
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