Celebrating 10 years as a breast cancer survivor
By Karen Dandurant firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted Oct 10, 2019 at 3:39 PM
EXETER -- Jennie Small of Exeter was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, while she was 15 weeks pregnant with her third daughter Isabella (Bella). She was stage 3 and underwent aggressive chemotherapy treatment. The story turned out well and today, Small is cancer-free and her happy healthy daughter is 10 years old.
Small, her husband Charlie and daughters Bella, Kyra and Madison are all celebrating the fact that the family is thriving.
Kyra, who was 9 when Small was diagnosed, is a student at Plymouth State University.
“When I was a little girl and had found out that my mom had breast cancer, I honestly didn’t know what to think and I wasn’t exactly sure what it is or what it meant, but I knew it wasn’t good,” said Kyra LaChapelle. “I remember being sad and feeling bad for my mom who was going through all of these things while fighting for her life, while also pregnant with my little sister, Isabella. I was sad, but I knew that my mom was a fighter and that she was going to kick cancer’s butt. Now, (I’m) 19 and my mom is a breast cancer survivor and she is an amazing mother to her three children, an amazing wife, and an even more amazing business owner. I am so proud of her, and she has come so far, and I am beyond happy to still have my mom in my life, because she is my number one supporter and I am so blessed that she is still here with me today. She has helped me accomplish so much in life, like graduating high school and attending college, I don’t know where I would be without her.”
Today, Small works as a surgical technician at Exeter Hospital, where she received treatment. She just started an online clothing business (603ChicBoutique) through Facebook.
“It’s good to be on the other side of this,” said Small. “I love telling my story but sometimes now, it feels like I am talking about someone else.”
Small was 29 years old when she was diagnosed with double negative her2 positive breast cancer. She was BRCA negative and had one positive lymph node. Doctors said her cancer may have resulted from an environmental or chemical exposure, but no one could be sure.
Small said it was terrifying.
“My oldest daughter, Kyra was 9 and Madison was only 3,” said Small. “I married Charlie on Aug. 16, 2008 and we decided to have a child. Bella saved my life because if it wasn’t for being pregnant and seeing my doctor, I would not have known. My doctor found a lump. She said it might be pregnancy hormones, so we waited a bit and watched. It was not hormones. I had an ultrasound and a solid mass was located. A core biopsy was done, and it was cancer. At 15 weeks pregnant, it was a lot to take in. I cried for the first few days.”
Small felt well cared for at Exeter Hospital since she had worked there since 2002.
“I knew the doctors, the nurses and the techs,” said Small. “I felt like Jennie, not just a faceless patient. I had total faith in the medical staff. I felt ill-equipped to make the tough decisions. My doctors assured me that 99 percent of babies born under these conditions did well. I had just felt her kick, how could I decide otherwise than to fight for her, for me and for my family.”
Small gave shout-outs to her medical team, and says she believes she might not be here today to turn 40 without them. She said Dr. Dennis Hammond, Dr. Kimberly Marble and Dr. Diane Palladino, and their teams saved her life through a year and a half of chemotherapy and another six weeks of radiation.
Bella was taken early, at 35 weeks. Small said she was given one month off from chemo, to allow her body to prepare for birth.
“She was a fighter and she was born with more hair than I had at that point,” said Small. “Her APGAR scores were nine and ten, great. Charlie had my back. He took care of the other girls and he was always there for me. I told him he could cut and run, that he didn’t sign on for this, but he stayed with us all the way. His mother Michelle (Small) and mine, Judy Lachapelle, were by our side.”
“It was scary, but I always had the feeling that things were going to be OK,” said Charlie Small. “I just tried to be a good, supportive husband. The hardest part was trying to be a good dad to two girls and a new infant.”
Small said her husband was amazing. She said he changed her dressings and took care of the girls. He found ways to manage the fact that they went down to one income.
Small visits her oncologist yearly and while she knows the cancer could return, every year it does not leaves her and the family feeling a little more confident.
“It’s nerve-wracking,” said Small. “Every ache or pain; I wonder if it’s cancer. But it has not come back and we are all so very happy together. We are going to hold on to that.”
Madison, now 14, was 3 years old and does not remember much.
“I remember she had no hair,” said Madison. “I used to rub lotion on her head. She wore pink wigs.”
Small said they are not shy talking about cancer in her household. She said she tells Bella all the time that she is a miracle baby, and that she saved her mom’s life. The 10-year-old does not remember, but said she loves her mom and is glad she is here.
“She was the good part of all this,” said Small. “It was a fight, a hard time, but we have Bella and we all have each other. We are a strong family.”