Jennifer would never have called herself “lucky” to have had a hysterectomy, but it was that procedure that ultimately tipped her doctors off to a serious and life-threatening health issue she was facing.
In 2010 Jennifer had been experiencing severe hip pain but couldn’t pinpoint the cause. In preparation for the hysterectomy, her doctor noticed something was off in her blood work. She was anemic. They tested further. Results showed she had multiple myeloma.
At the time, Jennifer was living a very busy and full life as an elementary school teacher and a single mom with two active little girls in the 1st and 3rd grades, but the diagnosis brought everything to a screeching halt. She tried working part-time, but it was nearly impossible with all her doctor appointments and the work necessary to manage her care. She ultimately had to quit her job to focus on her health.
Over the next several years she phased in and out of different treatments that promised hope. First was a stem cell transplant followed by therapies that would work – until they didn’t. Next, her oncologist recommended a CAR T cell therapy study, but ultimately that wasn’t the answer either. Doctors told her there was no other option. They suggested a clinical trial. In June of 2020 a clinical trial opened up and she was eligible. Her daughters, now 17 and 19 became her caretakers and would drive her once a month to her trial at UCSF Helen Diller Medical Center – four and a half hours from home.
With no job and no regular income, the financial strain of travel was overwhelming. Jennifer was paying for gas, parking tolls and a place to stay each time she traveled. Sometimes the cost soared to close to $1,000 each trip. “With the cancer treatments underway, that financial stress isn’t good for your health,” Jennifer told us. “I spent hours on the phone reaching out to other well-known cancer organizations. I would get a $50 gas card here and there.”
Her social worker at UCSF mentioned another organization that could help: Lazarex Cancer Foundation. The news was a welcome relief that eventually lifted the burden and allowed Jennifer to focus once again on her health instead of stressing about her finances.
“I am so grateful for Lazarex! They really stepped in to help in a big way and they make it so easy. If someone is going through this kind of ordeal, knowing that Lazarex is there to help is such a relief. Cancer and then the travel and the stress of the finances – it all really knocks you down. Thanks to the clinical trial, and Lazarex, today I’m the most stable I’ve been in many years. I try to watch what I eat… exercise and stay engaged. I look forward to the day I’m not planning my next treatment.”