Breast Cancer Survivor is the Hero of Her Own Story

Facing cancer wasn’t the hardest thing Jennie Creswell ever had to do. Telling her then sixth-grade son, Harrison, that she had been diagnosed with cancer was.

Her son’s first words nine years ago when he heard the news still make her shudder.

“Mom, you’re going to die.”

“I’m not going to die,” she told him. “Who’s going to bug you to clean your room?”

Jennie knew she had to be brave and calm for her oldest child. Her mother-in-law had just died from brain cancer; Jennie found the lump in her left breast not long after the funeral. A biopsy confirmed it was cancer. “We went back to hell,” she said.

Her son was still grieving his grandmother’s death, so Jennie knew she had to be brave and calm for him. But inside, she was scared.

Memorial’s Be Aware Women’s Fair

Jennie is one of three women who were randomly chosen as Super Survivors to be honored at this year’s Memorial’s Be Aware Women’s Fair. The eighth annual event will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 21, at the Orr Building on the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

Super Survivors are women whose breast cancer journeys have been an inspiration to others. Their unique stories will be shared with fair-goers when the Super Survivors reveal their makeovers, courtesy of BJ Grand Salon and Spa, and their new outfits.

See the reactions of the three Super Survivors when they were surprised with the news.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Jennie and her husband, Chris, live in Sherman, Illinois. They recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. They have two children, Harrison, who’s now 19 and a student at Lincoln Land Community College, and 10-year-old Hannah, who was an infant when Jennie was diagnosed on Aug. 8, 2008.

She received her diagnosis at age 42, the same age as her father when he passed away.

After the diagnosis, everything moved fast. It was all a blur, she recalled. The surgery to remove her left breast was scheduled within two weeks. That was followed by 12 weeks of chemotherapy and another five weeks of radiation, completing the process in March 2009.

Jennie lost her hair, which was even more devastating for her than the surgery to remove her breast. “I felt like I was losing my identity as a woman,” she said.

Jennie is thankful for the tremendous support from her family, many of whom lived on the East Coast, where she was born and raised, as well as her friends, who delivered meals to the family and watched her daughter while she received her treatment. She’s also grateful for the compassion of her physicians, who treated her like a person and not a statistic.

“You have to be willing to take the help as much as you don’t want to,” Jennie said.

Support & Inspiration

The two strongest sources of support were her husband and her mother, Emily Ryan.

When Jennie faced her most challenging days, Chris “was definitely my rock during the chemo. He’s very calm and keeps me in my place.”

Her mother moved to Springfield from Boston about 12 years ago and nominated her daughter for the Super Survivor honor. She’s facing her third battle with ovarian cancer. “Her positive attitude gets me going,” Jennie said.

She has commemorated her breast cancer journey with a series of tattoos. She has three sets of angel wings–one on her right hand and one on each ankle. The word “believe” is on her inner right arm.

The pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness is near her right hand with these words snaking up her forearm: “I’m the hero of my story.”

While her journey was difficult, Jennie is grateful. “It’s made me a stronger person,” she said. “I try to live each day as best I can ’cause God’s given me this chance.”