Jennifer Lucas was 28 years old when she entered the hospital for removal of a mass she thought might be a large cyst. She awoke to discover she had been given a complete hysterectomy. During surgery, doctors discovered the mass was uterine and ovarian cancer.
The operation saved her life, but it meant the end of her dream of having a third child and her first with her soon-to-be husband.
Lucas, 35, of Winston has been named an honoree for this year’s Relay for Life, which will be held at Umpqua Community College Saturday and Sunday.
The relay is part of a worldwide fundraising effort for the American Cancer Society. Participants walk the track and have contests, cake walks and a luminaria ceremony to raise money for research.
Lucas is the survivor chairwoman on the Relay for Life committee. It’s her job to encourage fellow cancer survivors to join in the event. Riverview Terrace, where she works as the front desk supervisor, has two teams with 23 members who will participate in the relay. Six of them are survivors.
She said one reason she wanted to get involved with the relay is to raise awareness of cancers that strike women.
“Ovarian cancer is one of the top five things that kills women and so many of them don’t know they have it,” she said.
Lucas began having problems after giving birth to her son, Brystin, four years before the discovery of the tumor that nearly killed her. She went to the emergency room for hemorrhaging and had repeated blood tests and scans before the source of the problem was discovered.
“It was literally a living nightmare. I never knew what to expect,” she said.
She was engaged to future husband Bobby Lucas. She said he was “amazing” before and after surgery.
“He doesn’t have any children of his own. I was hoping one day we would be able to have a child together, but that didn’t happen,” she said.
The experience made her all the more grateful for her son and daughter, Cheyenne. It changed her in other ways, too.
She said she has also learned to enjoy the simple things like flowers and clouds and frequently stops to take pictures of them, as well as her kids.
“I don’t take life for granted anymore,” she said. “No matter how much life gets to you, you have got to appreciate life and appreciate that cloud and appreciate that flower, because so many people who have cancer won’t get to see those clouds again.”
She said she has also learned to take physical symptoms more seriously.
“I don’t look at things the way I used to look at them. I pay attention now. If something doesn’t seem right, it’s probably not right, and you should probably go get checked with the doctor,” she said.
She said it is “humbling” to be selected as a relay honoree this year.
“I feel like there’s people who have gone through so much more,” she said. “I think every survivor is an honoree. Every survivor is celebrating another birthday, another Christmas, another mom is holding her kid.”
Lucas said she is happy her father, Eldon Jackson, 77, of Lakeside, also will attend the relay. He is a retired firefighter who smoked for 60 years and has lung cancer, she said. She said his doctors tell him he is doing well for his age, and he has a great attitude. He is determined to beat cancer, like his daughter did. She said she is optimistic fundraising efforts like the Relay for Life will help lead to a cure in time to save him.
“We’re very hopeful. Who knows? Maybe there’s a miracle drug waiting on the shelf,” she said.
• You can reach reporter Carisa Cegavske at 541-957-4213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I think every survivor is an honoree.
Jennifer Lucas, cancer survivor