Jennifer Perkins – 2017 Ambassador
City: Mooresville, IN
Date of diagnosis: 2016
Diagnosis: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma
Occupation: Assistant Principal
While on a trip to Nashville, Tennessee with her sorority friends, Jenn noticed a painful lump in her breast. She was no stranger to mammograms; she started getting them when she turned 30 because her great aunt had breast cancer in the 1950’s. When she found the lump she immediately called her OB-GYN who thought it just sounded like a cyst.
Jenn waited until after the holidays to get it checked out, and by then the lump had grown. She was still not convinced she was dealing with breast cancer. The day of her doctor’s appointment came and things got real for Jenn. Her doctor didn’t like the look of her mammogram and took a biopsy that same day. With tears flooding her eyes she began to realize the possibility of the lump being breast cancer.
The timing couldn’t have been much worse: her husband was on a six-month deployment in Iraq as an Air Force pilot at the time. But her doctor promised Jenn that she would get her through this.
On January 29, 2016, Jenn got the call confirming she had invasive ductal carcinoma and was told to be at the doctor’s office at 7 a.m. the next day. As she sat at her desk crying, her colleagues got her children and called her father for her so they could go home. Jenn says the hardest thing she had to do was to FaceTime her husband in a foreign country to tell him she had breast cancer.
With the help of her doctor’s office and The Red Cross, arrangements were being made to get her husband home right away. Until he could be there in person, Jenn’s doctor patiently answered his questions via FaceTime. Amazingly enough they brought her husband home within 40 hours.
Jenn’s treatment included eight rounds of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and reconstruction, 25 rounds of radiation and 17 rounds of Herceptin, a targeted therapy that was developed using Komen-funded research. Despite going through chemotherapy, Jenn continued to work through the rest of the school year, which was not always easy. Walking into work bald or wearing a wig helped her remember what it was like to be a teenager and to feel vulnerable or different.
Over the summer is when she underwent surgery, and the day school began she started radiation. On the last day of her radiation treatments, the students wore t-shirts that said “Mrs. Perkins is our superhero!” and had celebratory banners at a football game. Jenn says the love and support that was shown by her high school students is something she is thankful for.
Since her diagnosis she has dedicated time to helping others within her community. Jenn enjoys spending time with her husband, three boys (ages 17, 15 and 12) and two dogs! When she is not at work, Jenn likes to read and take yoga classes. She has also participated in the Indianapolis Race for the Cure as the team captain of Pink Pioneers in 2014 and on the Pink Ribbon Runners team in 2015.
Jenn’s takeaway message for others: “There is always hope. No one ever fights alone. I always say that I am sorry that cancer happened to my children and they know the fear of losing a parent. However, I’m not sorry that cancer happened to me,” she said. “As strange as it sounds, it made me a better person. I know who and what is important to me. It made my faith deeper, and in this crazy hectic world quickly reorganized my priorities so that I could focus on what is most important in my life.”