My name is Jenny Bender, and I was diagnosed with breast cancer on October 22, 2014—one day after my oldest child turned nine and one month before I turned forty. About two weeks later, after the flurry of tests and appointments and phone calls and second opinions (not to mention fights with the insurance company), I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (ICD) in my left breast. I am progesterone and estrogen positive, Her-2-neu negative and BRCA negative. All things considering, my prognosis is good. I, however, am forever changed.
I started writing soon after my diagnosis, mostly as a way to reflect on, process and document my internal and external experience for myself. Occasionally, I also wrote updates (physical and emotional) for the Caring Bridge website my best friend Maggie started as a way to coordinate local support and keep friends and family informed. Largely because of the positive responses I received about those posts, I decided to try my hand at a (this) blog. I’ve always loved to write, and I think it’s safe to say that every writer dreams of having her words impact the lives and hearts of others. My hope is that a post, a line, a feeling, an insight that I share on this blog will resonate for someone else and perhaps even provide comfort; and that through this blog, I might connect with others who understand what it’s like to ride the breast cancer wave, and hence gain comfort myself.
I am new to the world of blogging. New to cyberspace and social media, in fact. (I don’t even have a Facebook account!) So just as I’m trying to take breast cancer one step at a time, I’ll also be taking this blog one step at a time. For me, that means seeing what comes, trying to follow (trust) the bread crumbs, and being open to what I discover around the next corner.
A few more things I’d like you to know about me:
I live in Northampton, Massachusetts with Harrison, my nine-year-old son; Sophie, my six-year-old daughter; and Josh, my love of fifteen years, husband of ten, co-parent of nine, soul mate of… lifetimes? My (long-ago divorced) parents have been our short-term, life-saving roommates through this experience. They moved across the country for three months to help hold our family together while I underwent the worst of my chemotherapy (allowing Josh to finish the final year of his intensive, physician assistant graduate program).
For many reasons, I consider myself one of the lucky ones in life, including the fact that I am part of a beautifully close-knit community that not only feeds my life and my soul, but is also helping to carry my family and me through this journey with breast cancer. And beyond the borders of my closest friends, dozens more have shown up in the last months in the form of meals, house-cleanings, hand-written cards, wrapped gifts, childcare… the list goes on and on. I wish I could thank each person individually, but the list would be impossibly long. I imagine, however, that you’ll get to know some of the key players in my blog posts.
Lastly, career: I’ve spent the last fifteen years in public education, first as a New York City public school teacher, then as a literacy professional developer (with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project and then as an independent consultant). I also wrote curriculum and published two books on the teaching of writing. Since my diagnosis, I have put that work life on hold in order to heal, to write from a more personal stance, and to see where life wants me next.