Huggable Hero: Jennifer Figueredo

Jennifer Figueredo is currently three years out from when she was first diagnosed with cancer at age 37. The weeks leading up to her finding out that she had cancer was scary, but Jennifer felt there was hope that her lump could be nothing other than a fibroadenoma. Jennifer’s primary care physician had been watching the lump for a number of years, and her new gynecologist had been watching it for at least two years. To them, It seemed as though the lump had not gotten any bigger. Jennifer, however, knew that something wasn’t right. She voiced her concern to her gynecologist again, being a bit more persistent. This time, she was referred to a surgeon. “The surgeon asked me millions of questions,” said Jennifer, “including if I had ever been hit in the breast with something or ever been an accident. He said it just didn’t feel like a cancerous type of tumor, but I again voiced my concern to continue along the path of getting it checked out. A few days later, on my husband’s birthday, I found myself at a Women’s Imaging Center getting a biopsy.  My anxiety kicked in and I was scared of what the results would be. The doctor who did the biopsy was very caring, knowing that I was scared, walked me through the procedure, and talked to me about many other things to help ease my mind. When she saw me crying at the end, she held my hand and told me that everything went well, and from the way she looked at it, again, it looked a bit like a fibroadenoma.”

Jennifer still had a feeling deep down inside that it had to be breast cancer. Two days after her biopsy, she and her mother went to get the results. The doctor sat back in his chair and told Jennifer that the results came back as cancer. “Time went into slow motion and words only became mumbles,” remembered Jennifer. “Deep down inside, I knew what the results were going to be, but hearing it still came as a shock. My body felt numb, but like it was completely on fire. I couldn’t move and had no idea what to do.”

Since Jennifer’s grandmother had also been diagnosed with breast cancer, Jennifer’s mother asked the many questions that Jennifer could not get herself to ask. The doctor very calmly answered as many questions as he could and proceeded to schedule more appointments to find out more about the cancer.

“I made up my mind that I could not let this news overtake me,” said Jennifer. “I did not want to go somewhere and wallow in scary thoughts.”

It gave time for the fog to start to lift and for Jennifer to figure out how she was going to react to seeing her family and friends, who by that evening, all knew the news. “When we got to the house, I walked into the living room and the air was as thick as molasses,” said Jennifer. “They all just stared at me and none of us knew what to really say. How do you start a conversation with everyone you love after finding out you have cancer?”  

While she was on the phone, Jennifer’s husband walked in. “I had to go into strong mode facing my husband,” she remembered. “I could tell he was scared to the max. We both knew we had to be strong and rational to go through the things to come, and not dwell on the scary things.”

They decided not to tell their children until they knew more about the breast cancer and what was to come. To be with family and friends that night gave Jennifer comfort not to break down and go crazy with all the little scary things that were running through her mind.

Finally telling her son and daughter was the hardest thing that Jennifer had to do. Jennifer and her husband decided to tell their children once school let out, which coincidentally came the Friday before Jennifer was scheduled to go in and have surgery the next Tuesday. “We sat them down on the couch in the living room, and I decided I was the one to do the talking,” remembered Jennifer. “I asked them if they knew why I was so passionate about wearing pink and doing the Breast Cancer Walk every year. They said they knew that my grandmother and aunt had passed away from cancer. I informed them that was indeed the reason, and now I had a reason much closer to home. I explained to them that I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My daughter immediately broke down and my son sat in shock, a bit like I did when I found out. It was very hard telling them. My heart broke, but I had to quickly go back into strong mommy mode. I explained to them how everything would be alright, just like I did with my family and friends when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Only this time, I was more prepared to answers any questions that they have had.

Both kids jumped up, ran out of the room and ran upstairs.  “I was so afraid they were going to have a very hard time the rest of the night processing what they just found out about their mom,” said Jennifer. Instead, the children ran back downstairs into the living room wearing every bit of pink they could find upstairs. “My son had a guitar in his hand and my daughter was holding something pretending it was a microphone,” remembered Jennifer. “The next thing I knew, they were serenading me with an impromptu song called Fight Cancer. It was just what I needed. The power of love and support from my own kids was amazing.” That night made Jennifer even more determined to fight harder and stay strong no matter which way her journey was going to take her.

One of the most beneficial things for Jennifer was finally breaking down and letting the cat out of the bag and posting her story on Facebook. “The immediately amount of messages sending prayers, love and support really made a difference,” said Jennifer. “After finding out new things about my cancer, I would again, put myself out there on Facebook. I found that telling everybody in my network really released a lot of the tension and fear I had inside of me. It made me feel empowered and stronger every day knowing that I had such a support system out there. I wasn’t alone going through my journey.”

Jennifer also found support with her Chemo Duck. “What I loved most about my Chemo Duck is that it gave me a feeling of support and comfort at a time in need,” said Jennifer. “I didn’t care if it was originally designed for a child who was going through chemo. Even as an adult, I needed something to hold and hug, just like a child with their stuffed animal, during my own first round of chemo.”

Jennifer advises other cancer patients to take every day one step at a time. “Do not get on the internet searching for advice or information about your cancer,” said Jennifer. “This is YOUR cancer!  It is not a one size fits all thing anymore. Everyone’s cancer is different, from the way your body deals with it, to the way your journey goes. Talk to your doctor and don’t be afraid to ask anything and everything. Stay strong, because love and support are always out there. Even when the day seems to be very down and gray, try to find a small glimmer of sunshine because that is what forces you to continue to move forward with hope through your journey.”

Give a Duck

Did you know that we a counterpart across the pond? Give A Duck is a UK-based charity that helps us spread our wings internationally. Give A Duck is the official UK distributor for Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program and delivers chemo ducks to childhood cancer centers in England and Wales. They also work with local charities to spread the word. Since September 2018, Give A Duck has increased support to the UK Principal Treatment Centres by 50%.

Give A Duck was founded by Karen and Andrew Phillips after their son Harry was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012. After seeing the impact that Harry’s chemo duck made on his journey, Harry’s parents made a fated connection with our founder, Lu Sipos. Since Lu was born and raised in the UK, she was eager to help spread the comfort of chemo ducks to England. However, she was having a problem with the international storage and distribution of the ducks. Jenkar Shipping kindly stepped in and since then, the ducks have made their way over to the UK. There’s been no word on if they’ve developed Madonna-like accents yet.

As for Harry, he doesn’t go anywhere without his Chemo Duck. That’s why Give a Duck has continued their efforts and partnered with Candlelighters, a Yorkshire children’s cancer charity, to achieve their goal of making sure that every child that is diagnosed with cancer is provided with a Chemo Duck.

Through Candlelighters, Karen and her husband Andrew met Eve Corry, now charity development director at Give A Duck. Eve recently ran the Leeds Half Marathon (the biggest half marathon in Yorkshire) on behalf of Give a Duck. Eve set up a JustGiving page and posted regular updates on her training on that platform as well as on her social media. She raised more than £680 pounds (that’s more than $850!) by race day. Eve credits her family, friends, as well as locals and visitors for supporting this incredible endeavor!

To keep up to date with Give A Duck’s latest news and help spread the word, follow their charity pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.