We asked if donating her tumor would be helpful. The way her beloved and loving oncologist responded to that question was my first real glimpse into how important the donation of tumors is. She was, well for lack of a better word, ”excited” about telling her colleague about our decision.
I thought it would be easy emotionally to donate. It wasn’t. I had never used the words “her tumor.” It wasn’t supposed to be in there so I never wanted to connect it with her. In those last weeks, as she suffered more as a result of those tumors, I began to hate them in earnest.
At that time I was so sure we would donate. I thought the logistics would be the hard part, but that was easy. She took her last breath at our home 2 weeks later, February 12th 2014. Then I got it. Her little body had been through so much. It was finally at peace. Did I really want to put it through more? I was worried about the scars. What if I wanted to see her again? I didn’t want to have to let her go physically.
My husband reminded me gently that this was what we wanted to do… to help her make a difference. Eventually he had to help me out of her room. I think if this hadn’t been our plan, if I didn’t have a reason to let her go, I don’t think I ever would have.
It’s only been two months since she died. Initially hearing the surgery was done I felt a sense of relief, finally those horrible tumors were out of her. I knew we would be burying her the way she was supposed to be, tumor free. I saw her afterwards and I couldn’t tell that she had donated.
We have received multiple updates about her tumor cells. Notice now I say her tumor cells now, about two weeks after she was gone I started to feel connected to those cells. Something that was once a part of her, a piece of her, the final physical piece.
It’s not how I wanted her to see the world, but now she will. That gives me some twisted sort of relief. To know a part of her is still fighting, still waging a war against pediatric cancer. She would like that. I do too.
Jennifer is survived by three younger siblings. When they are older I will share with them the articles that credit her cells and the fund we started in her name to help researchers. They will be proud of their big sister. I hope they will be proud of their parents too — for making this gut wrenching choice.