Each of us are dealt a bad hand or two throughout our lives.
It is how you deal with those bad hands that defines who and what we are and who you will become.
Just ask Jennifer Ryan, a young and seemingly healthy wife, mother of three and someone who takes pride in helping others as an Instructional Res
ource Teacher at Newtown Elementary in Mount Pearl.
She was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in January 2017 and, like almost everyone who gets that bad hand, she had all the thoughts and fears that accompany the news.
“I had hurt my back, so I was going to chiropractor for that. Afterwards, I had a pain in my neck and I experienced spottiness in my eyes and dizziness. I wound up in emergency,’’ Ryan said.
“On Jan. 9, they came back with the diagnosis that it was cancer. The doctor was surprised as I was,’’ she added.
Ryan said she was glad her mother was with her at the time due to the shock of the prognosis. She met with her husband at lunch that day to talk about it, to gain comfort and insight into what happens next.
Then her maternal instincts took over.
“I went into mom mode, getting things in order, when do we get this going (for treatments).”
Like most people who are stricken with cancer, she wondered why it happened and her mind wandered through all of the scenarios that could play itself out. And then anxiety sets in.
“I still worry, especially when you get close to checkup time, bloodwork, wondering ‘Oh God, what can happen now,’ ” she said.
But through it all she is fortunate to have her husband Paul and three children: Mia (8), Lucy (5) and Jack (2) who have been a great support as she navigates her way back to health.
“I thought being a mother to three children was tough, but the medications and being fatigued have been tougher. It was a good six months before I got that straightened around.”
She underwent surgery at the end of January 2017 where about half of her thyroid was removed. After her pathology came back it was determined the cancer had spread to eight of the 10 lymph nodes that were removed, so she had to undergo a second surgery in March to remove the remaining half of her thyroid.
After recovering from the surgery, she was scheduled for follow-up treatments, the main one being radiation, which would be done in a pill form. This was a five-day process as she has to be in isolation for five days following taking the pill.
“The treatment went fine, and my scans came back fine,’’ she said noting a sense of relief from that diagnosis. Ryan is currently on a six-month follow up program to monitor her cancer.
How she could help
Being someone who works with students with needs outside the regular school system on a daily basis, it was a natural progression for her to want to help others.
Ryan was introduced to YACC through someone she works out with, and researching the organization, she attended a YACC conference in June.
“This was a great experience. I found lots of supports there, and it was very helpful for what I was dealing with at the time,’’ she said.
“I also went to a retreat in Rocky Harbour in the fall. I got to climb Gros Morne Mountain, went to Woody Point and ziplined in Corner Brook. The retreat was for people who wanted a physical experience, but also trying to connect with other cancer survivors,” she added.
So to help those in a similar situation as hers, she decided to participate in the 2018 Shave for The Brave program in support of YACC.
She will shave off her long blonde locks on March 29 in front of her entire school community at 2 p.m.
“After I learned what YACC was all about, I wanted to shave, to jump on board. They do great work,” Ryan said.
“I am trying to raise awareness and educate the students as to what the organization (YACC) is. I am currently at $1,200 raised. My goal is $1,500, but I hope to exceed that.”
She has explained to students at Newtown about her cancer and in addition about the retreat, the conference and about the programs YACC offers,’’ she added noting the students are excited and working hard to help the cause.
How to be involved
Anyone wishing to donate to Ryan’s fundraiser can do so by logging on to shaveforthebrave.ca/jenniferryan. This link will bring you to a donation page where interested persons can make a donation.
Newtown Elementary is leading the way at this time in money raised, followed by the Marine Institute and Mary Queen of Peace Elementary School.
Young Adult Cancer Canada's mission is to support young adults (ages 15-39) as they move with, through and beyond cancer and to be the connection to peers, bridge out of isolation, and source of inspiration. Every cancer, every stage, their motto is YACC’s got your back.
For more on YACC, log on to www.youngadultcancer.ca.