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'Katie's Crusaders' march on in fight against cancer

Thursday, September 29, 2011

(Photo)
Heather (Hansen) Jenks, right, is pictured along side her mother-in-law, Mary Jenks. Jenks is one of Katie's Crusaders who help other young adult families with financial support while fighting cancer. Photo contributed [Order this photo]
Cherokee natives face dreaded disease head-on

Katie's Crusaders was created in 2009 when Katie (Schueder) Mangan was diagnosed with Stage III Breast Cancer.

The goal was to help Katie and her family, Tim, Haleigh, and Hannah make ends meet while she concentrated on fighting for her life.

They were so overwhelmed by the generosity of their family, friends and communities that they live in and grew up in that they decided to "Pay Forward" Katie's Crusaders and help other young adult families in need. In April of 2010 Katie's Crusaders Inc. became a Non-profit registered 501c3. They helped four families last year and raised $18,000 to help those families pay their own out of pocket expenses that insurance doesn't cover.

This year they are hosting their 3rd Annual Run/Walk in Waukee, and have four amazing families as their Crusaders and one of them is a Cherokee Native. Heather (Hansen) Jenks, WHS class of '94, was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2009.

Since then she is now facing her third diagnosis and going through oral chemo and radiation.

"My plan is to become a breast cancer survivor - a really old breast cancer survivor. My story goes like this: In December 2008 I found a lump. January 2nd, 2009 I learned that I had breast cancer," said Jenks. "At that time, our daughter was in kindergarten and our son was just 20 months old. January 15th was a right total mastectomy including the removal of 13 lymph nodes. Two of those lymph nodes were positive for cancer," added Jenks.

"The next three months were taken up by chemotherapy. I had a lot of side effects from the chemo and was hospitalized seven times. This was a very challenging time for us. I spent more days of March 2009 in the hospital than out," she recalls. "I felt physically miserable, emotionally drained and I desperately missed my family when I was hospitalized. I also spent one hour a week getting infusions of Herceptin (an antibody specific to my type of cancer) for a year," she continued.

"In May 2010 I found a lump very close to where the original lump (2008) had been. We thought that it was a puckering or a dimpling in the implant. Then it grew - and quickly. The mass was removed August 6th, 2010 and found to be cancerous. I kept not feeling well, running fevers, etc. so I made the decision to have the implant removed on August 23rd. (That was the 12th surgery in a 20 month period," said Jenks.

"I asked about frequent flyer punch cards. They said no. A PET scan showed that the rest of my body was clear of cancer - a local recurrence only. There was a small spot near my 10th thoracic vertebrae but it was thought to be arthritis at that time.

I had a routine mammogram on my left (and only! breast) in March 2011. I was astonished when I was told that there was cancer there too," she added.

"All three cancers look identical under microscope plus the spot near my spine had grown a little, so the doctor thinks that it's metastatic.... That's been a hard thing to deal with. I'm currently doing oral chemotherapy plus another drug that is made to fight anything with the aggressive growth factor (HER2) found in all of the cancers. I've also started a short course of radiation on my affected vertebrae," explained Jenks.

"I'm 35, I have an incredible husband and two small children that are the center of my world, and I have a lot to live for.... So I'm working on that. All the support from family, friends, co-workers and sometimes people that I don't know that well has been so uplifting. My family and I could not have done without that," she added.

"We're grateful to Katie's Crusaders. I'm hoping to be in better health next year, be on the OTHER side of Katie's Crusaders and be able to help a new set of candidates," stated Jenks.

You can follow Heather's journey on her Caringbridge site: www.caringbridge.org/visit/heatherjenks.

Katie and Tim are asking their hometown to rally around these young women and their families in the most difficult time in their lives.

You can register to run or walk in our event or you can donate to Katie's Crusaders at North Star Community Credit Union. Katie's Crusaders Inc. is a registered 501c3 and ALL donations are tax deductible.

If you have any questions you can contact Katie at 515-987-0075. Go to their website www.katiescrusaders.org to meet the other three families and read their stories.



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