Posted: Jul 25, 2013 9:17 PM by Victoria Fregoso - MTN News
Updated: Jul 25, 2013 10:37 PM
BILLINGS - "My husband Kurt and I were high school sweethearts," Jennifer Owen said with a smile. "I grew up here in Billings, he grew up in a farm town outside of Great Falls Montana."
Those high school sweethearts would go on to college, then to Washington D.C. In 2008, Jennifer completed law school. To them, it felt like their lives were just getting started. "We were really feeling like we were sort of at the peak of our young adult lives. And he was diagnosed with cancer."
It was stage four terminal esophageal cancer. "It was something we were absolutely unprepared for," she said.
With no warning signs or family history of the disease, at the age of 31, Kurt passed away. But there was another issue these young adults were up against during those 15 months spent fighting the cancer. "Everywhere we went, we felt like the only ones in our situation. Most people diagnosed with cancer are in their 50, 60, 70's and here we were, 30, sitting in this waiting room where nobody looked like us. So the sense of social isolation was huge for us. It was very lonely."
Once Kurt was gone, Jennifer fought another battle of her own. "I felt like I had been left here on this earth without my partner and there was no longer purpose in my life."
Jennifer found closure when a friend said she should go somewhere her help could make a difference. That took her to Nicaragua where she volunteered for a year. Soon she was approached by the non-profit "Stupid Cancer" and was asked to share her story. "For me, it was an incredibly validating opportunity. To be able to talk about what I had seen, what I had been through and to reach out to other caregivers and other people battling cancer and say you're not in this alone. There is in fact, a whole national network of people who get it and who want to fight this fight with you."
People ages 18 to 40 will have the opportunity to take a part in a one day stupid cancer boot camp this Saturday July 27. "We're hoping that by bringing stupid cancer to Billings, that more of our young adults will come and want to get together and talk about the issues that they're facing," said Billings Clinic Social Worker Jennifer Finn.
Now, Jennifer Owen is happily remarried with their first child on the way. "There is hope. There is opportunity to continue living post cancer."
Click here for more information on the Stupid Cancer Boot Camp.