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Surviving and thriving with breast cancer

Spirit, Breast Cancer Awareness, Cancer, Women's Health, Show on Corporate Home

To see Jennifer Hennick today — young, vibrant, enjoying a milestone in her nursing career at Adventist Health Bakersfield and bringing together other young women for a “glam photo shoot” — you would never imagine the road she has traveled. At 28, she was a single mom of two children, doing her best to raise them and get herself through nursing school. She dreamed of graduating, finding a position as a registered nurse and planning her family’s future.

Then, she discovered a lump in her breast, which would eventually lead to those three words that would change her life’s path: You have cancer.

“My immediate gut feeling was terrible, and the alarms were sounding,” recalls Jennifer about first finding the lump. “But instead, I began to frantically search for another explanation.” At the time, she hoped it might be a seat belt injury resulting from a car accident a few months earlier.

She knew she had to be checked by a professional. However, this created yet another stressful crisis because she was uninsured. Like so many others, Jennifer was just trying to get by financially day-to-day and never imagined she would need health insurance.

Fortunately, Jennifer benefited from the Links for Life program that paid for her imaging and biopsy appointments, which confirmed she did, in fact, have breast cancer. She qualified for Medi-Cal coverage and underwent surgery for a left modified radical mastectomy in October 2005, followed by chemotherapy that lasted until January 2006.

Today, Jennifer remains cancer-free. Her dreams of working in oncology were realized when she was hired as the nurse practitioner for the Adventist Health Breast Center in Bakersfield. The perspective she brings as a breast cancer survivor — at such a young age, no less — is invaluable to prospective patients.

In fact, it’s because of Jennifer, that a Young Survival Coalition (YSC) chapter has returned to Bakersfield. During her breast cancer battle, she found great solace, comfort and kinship in this group of young women facing so many similar situations. However, over time, the local organization had dissolved — which was something she wanted to change.

“As soon as I started at the Adventist Health Breast Center, I knew that I needed to bring YSC back,” Jennifer says. “YSC’s mission is all about sisterhood, support and resources. We work with survivors, caregivers and the medical research, advocacy and legislation communities to increase quality and quantity of life for young women with breast cancer.

“We are here to educate, empower and connect our local young ladies who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. We want them to know we are in this together.”

The gatherings offer the women opportunities for support, while also providing something fun to do as a group. After all, sometimes girls just want to have fun!

To inspire other young women going through breast cancer, Jennifer and her united sisters, some still at the beginning or the middle of their breast cancer journeys, gathered in downtown Bakersfield for a special “glam photo” session. Their gowns, donated by generous community members, empowered these ladies to show that cancer can’t steal their sense of style.

“Our portraits show beauty, grit and sisterhood … the very definition of the Young Survival Coalition Bakersfield,” Jennifer says.