I planned to go see my dear friend Jenna since I heard she was diagnosed with cancer. When I heard THE NEWS my heart was broken, I felt so much pain… I cried many nights as I prayed for her, and said to God; I could not believe this was happening again in my life, to a friend who is so special to me…maybe she didn't even know how special she is to me until now.
I cried, I wanted to take the first flight and hug her and say: it was going to be alright, but not easy…because I have been through that journey and I know it is not easy…not only because we all know it is scary and difficult to cure, but because I had been through it all with my mother.
I knew what was coming her way, and the pain of not being able to do something to HELP, made me feel so small… GOD how can this not be taken away instantly from her? She doesn’t deserve it, she is so beautiful and full of life, she loves all people, no matter their race, culture, gender, or even social status…she loves life, she has so many friends all over the world, she is beautiful, successful and she loves her family SO MUCH…how could this be happening to her now?
I had no idea how busy the next few days would be- to get organized before the scary surgery day arrived. The day that would change her life forever, the day that we all anxiously awaited, some of us by her side and some of us away but near through prayers and thoughts.
Before arriving, I received a text message like this:
"Here is my schedule for the next few days. (lol)
Thursday: 11am-5pm Vit C IV therapy in New Hampshire - Home by 7pm.
Friday: 8am Dana Farber Doc appt/ 1:30pm-2:30pm: wig consult/ 4pm haircut
Saturday: 1pm Doc appt/ 4pm-8pm photo shoot/dinner with family friends
Sunday: Godson bday party
Monday: 10am-1pm: my friend is coming to make a plaster mold of my chest (before its gone!)
Tuesday: 9am Doc appt
Wednesday: Surgery and overnight at hospital
Thursday: return home"
So when I read this, I thought that was easy and we would still have a lot of time to take it easy before surgery and also do whatever she wanted to do, like: skydiving¨ or even go to a spa and relax. But, we ran against time and the days were long because it was like a marathon…every second counted to make it all happen before surgery day.
I arrived and there she was, her beautiful mama Jane. She was the only one home, then shortly after Jeremy arrived, Drew´s father whom now is Jenna´s second father. So we talked as we waited for Jenna to come home. I bought a one way ticket because I wanted to stay as long as she needed.
The journey began, time was against her and so much to do…like planting an organic garden, (this is one of many assignments she forgot to write down).
Day 1: Up at 5am and left the house by 6am to go to Dana Farber appt. One thing she loves in the morning was her coffee. She is doing Intermittent Fasting which is good for cellular repair, and studies show is increases tumor-killing cells and boosts the immune system. Jenna fasts everyday for 16hrs (overnight and into midday), and then eats for the remaining 8hrs of the day. Her first meal is typically her organic keto green smoothie (made with greens from her organic garden - made especially for her by Seoane Landscape!).
Her lunch is always keto, organic and prepared by her (high healthy fat, low carb, some protein). Clean eating is super important to Jenna and it is all about organic, pasture-raised, grass fed, hormone/chemical/pesticide free REAL FOOD. I was impressed how much strength and discipline Jenna has but most of all her positive attitude and determination to kill all the bad cells, doing everything she can to be healed and cured.
After the hospital we had a few hours before the next appt, so we got another coffee (of course), and I treated her to get her nails done. And there she was, while doing her nails, she was on her computer and phone working and getting things done. Then we went shopping to buy her some new button down shirts for after surgery.
Then off we went, again. Believe it or not, this was one of the hardest moments of all - the wig consult. Jenna had cut all her hair off months ago and a custom wig had been made using her own hair! Today was the day we went to see if for the first time and try it on. One of her best friends, Dana, was waiting when we arrived.
Thank God she was, because between the two of us, we held hands…like we used to do together. I have a memory of us in Boulder in 2003 - dancing and singing “Happy Shiny People” - only this time was not a happy time, it was not so beautiful a moment, but if we are to look in a positive way, it was beautiful- because she was not alone and not for a moment has she been alone since this C beast invaded her life. So many friends all over the country and world have come to give her support and love, exactly when she’s needed it.
The wig appt made Jenna realize and feel, even more, the reality of the situation, and to feel how scary this whole thing was.
But through it all, she managed to keep such a positive attitude, that even made me feel weak sometime because I have had less hard moments and my attitude was not even close to the one she always had while I was with her. I thought to myself, “How can she do it all and so well and with so much energy???” It is only possible to know what I am talking about if you were there living it, day by day, walking with her and have been her right hand to do it all with her…
Day 2: 6am up and in the car. Home Depot here we come, to buy supplies to make her Godson´s birthday gift & supplies to work on her other project- to make a special room filled with her favorite photos of memories and lights. She described to me of her vision to make a special room for her to heal in and for friends to hang out. So we went on a mission to make it happen. And, she still found time and energy for it. Everyday, we started at 6am and would end 11pm or later.
That night Jenna went to a Spirit Medium with her cousins, where she connected with her ex fiancé Drew, and her Uncle John. Both, relaying messages that they are with her even though she can’t see them, and that there is a greater reason she is going through this right now. I had a great dinner made by Lou, her father, with some family friends. It was fun and the food was delicious.
Day 3: Sunday, woke up early. I thought it would be a less busy day because surgery was near, (I thought) but - we worked until 1am in her bedroom, which has been named “The Babe Cave”. It was fun and great to see the best of her life through the pictures we put all over the room. Or should we call it, ¨The Healing Room¨ where anyone that goes in, will travel to many places she has been around the world and see the best moments and friends that Jenna has made through 37 years of her life.
Such an amazing journey so far. Well-lived, successful (not only professionally) but above all- the friends (even worldwide) she has collected and kept through her entire life.
Day 4: We woke up early but of course Jenna is always the first to get up…so much to think about, so much to do. Those solo early morning hours were like gold- so precious. Her friend was coming to do the plaster mold of her chest (great idea shared by a mutual friend who went through similar experience). And, so much needed to be done. So, we started to clean and rearrange her bedroom and bathroom.
She wanted to make sure everything was as easy as possible after surgery - but not just for her; especially for her parents and those who would be helping her. She is so thoughtful of everyone all the time. She wanted to make it easy for everyone who was helping. The closer it got to surgery, the more anxious and fearful she would get. All of us would. I was around her Mom and Dad alot, and watching her father’s silence…oh Lord I prayed. I asked for God to help him, help Jane…but above all give them the strength and peace that they need at this moment in this tornado that came into their lives out of nowhere.
More help did come their way, and one of her many best friends from highschool, Liz Virga, came from NYC to be there for surgery day. It had to be her…she needed to be there…she knows so much and Jenna felt that she could take a little bit of her parents burden away because they love her like a daughter.
Tears come down as I remember all the moments we shared these two days before surgery. We finally finished organizing the house. I organized the kitchen cabinets, with Jane´s OK. I made one area with all of Jenna’s food so she could easily stick to her special keto diet after surgery.
That night Jenna's friend Meg who is a photographer gifted her a photo shoot on tbe beach - so she would never forget what her body and hair looked like before surgery and chemo.
WOW I can´t believe we did it, but we did. And it was so nice to see how happy she was, when she saw everything that she planned accomplished, even in the midst of all the doctors appointments.
Day 5: PRE SURGERY DAY… TUESDAY
The day started early at Mass General Hospital- just like many other days, but with a big difference- it was the last one Jenna would see her body complete for a while (and not a short term while). But she had been preparing for this… if there is such a thing as preparing for something like this. I believe as much as one can prepare physically and emotionally, no one is ever ready for moments like this…they will come, you will go through it and do what it is required and needs to be done, but saying that you are prepared??? No one is… it is hard, heartbreaking, scary, uncertain, and it brings thoughts and feelings to her and to all of us, that I believe maybe she will never even share, because it is so scary to even think about it. But as much as it can be scary, it is also a relief- to know that this phase will be done and this bad C beast will be out of her body forever and will never come back.
It was important for Jenna to visit her Grandfather, “Ito” (short for “abuelito”), because his health was failing quickly and she wanted to see him before it was too late. We had a great visit and he never lost his sense of humor, always joking. We spoke Spanish and he told us the story of how he fell in love with Nana. At a YMCA dance, he saw her for the first time and looked at her legs and fell in love. hahahaha It was an honor to meet such an awesome, special person to Jenna and be able to laugh with him before he said goodbye to all of us.
Since that time, Ito passed away peacefully in his sleep - and the Seoane’s celebrated his 91 years.
Day 6: ¨THE SURGERY DAY¨
I woke up Jenna and Liz, Lou and Jane were all ready to go, and we were on our way. It all seemed to happened LIKE a blink of an eye - but only Jenna and only SHE knows how long the last 5 months have been, waiting for this day to come.
We arrived at Mass General Hospital at 7am as planned, and went up to the Pre-Op room. Surgery was scheduled for 9am. But when she checked in, they made her wait…wow…more waiting after all these months, weeks, hours, minutes and seconds…she still had to wait…no food and no water since the day before…not even black coffee. I believe it was the longest 2 hours of her life…maybe.
So the Nurse calls Jenna’s name, I believe to prep for the most waited moment, but instead, the Nurse says the surgery is delayed. …ohh noooo… I have no idea the feelings and thoughts she was dealing with at that moment. So, we all waited with her - Aunt Sue Seoane and Maryellen arrived, Gail and Jeremy, Jane and Lou, Liz and myself.
When we finally had to let her go by herself into that surgery room, the faces were filled with anxiety, fear, pain, sadness. I believe if we all could do anything to avoid our loved Jenna from going through this painful process, we all would have…but unfortunately there was nothing we could do, other than be by her side, and help her through this moment with lots of love and prayers.
When she got up to leave the waiting room, she said bye to her father…and walked away. And, I have never seen Jenna in tears of pain like I did that moment. It was the worst feeling because no one could do anything to make her feel better or keep her from having to go in that surgery room. Only God could be with her when no-one else could, so our prayers went with her.
We walked with her (me, Liz, Jane and her Aunt Sue) to meet with the Anesthesiologist and to say bye until she was done a few hours later.
All these days I have been with her parents, I had never seen her father and mother cry. It is hard to describe such a moment like that into words. Lou, her dad, opened his heart a little to me and that moment. I hugged him, cried with him and we said a few words of strength, faith and encouragement. With Jane, we went to chapel to say a prayer for Jenna. Then all of us had to wait, and the wait was looong…
Three hours later, the moment came where they called Liz’s name and said Jenna was calling for her. So Liz went to see Jenna and Liz returned with good news - that she is fine, and wants her Mom and Dad. What a relief, happiness, thankfulness and joy to hear.
Shortly after, me Jeremy and Gail went in and we surrounded her with joy and peace and saw that she made it through, was happy, and wasn’t in pain. She was so relieved that this beast was out of her body. With joy this is how the day ended…and we went home to rest.
What could I say about Jenna and the few days I had the chance to share with her and her family???
Now I know Jenna well, because I also had the chance to know her parents, and see how she has so much of both Jane and Lou. This is what has made made Jenna to be the wonderful woman, daughter, granddaughter, sister and friend that she is. It couldn’t be different with a father like Lou - loving, funny, always smiling even when he is in pain, his jokes and his Tommy Bahama shirts, of course…and Jane- with her love, peace, calmness, strength and patience like few people I have ever met in my life, she is beautiful inside and out.
So Jenna is one of the few people I know that has the strength like that of her Mom- fearless, adventurous, traveler, funny, loyal and with the biggest heart…very social, easy to connect and make new friends anywhere in the world no matter the language barrier or culture, but most important, she knows how to keep friendships for life & that is why she collected so many special friends over this years.
I don´t know anyone with so much determination, who is so strong and brave to fight everyday. No matter how she felt physically or emotionally, I was always amazed to see how she never once gave up, or complained, or even said I am tired of all this. I am sure she did, but in silence to herself. She kept all the tears and feelings because she cared so much about how others around her felt.
She sacrificed herself so others wouldn’t suffer - even though she was the one going into that surgery room. She fought the fight until the last minute before surgery, with so much strength and energy that is beyond any human comprehension…how did she do it??? I don’t know but I know one thing, LOVE is one word I believe helped her get through it all and fight so well- and we all know that VICTORY is already hers.
The new PHASE as she calls it, is about to begin and it will not be an easy one but it will be the one she will come out of- stronger, happier, and even more full of life and dreams than before.
All of us who love her will walk with her down this path and collect more memories, but this time to celebrate at the end with new chapters, full of great memories- of a great woman with a great story of strength and beauty that conquers victory through her love for life and others and also the love of others. WE ALL LOVE YOU JENNA AND WE ALL WILL BE THERE FOR YOU NO MATTER WHAT!!!
And we were asked to wait 7-10 days for the pathology results...so we prayed.