A mother-of-three who was diagnosed with stage-four cancer still works a full-time job because her husband and children rely on her for health insurance.
Pennsylvania resident Jamil Rivers told People that she was 39 when she was diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer in 2017.
Though being diagnosed at such a late stage brings a low survival rate, the now 41-year-old has continued to juggle her full-time job with raising her kids and caring for her husband, because everyone in her family relies on her benefits.
The mother-of-three said before her diagnosis, she had lived a normal life and had a ‘typical family’.
However, things took a turn when Jamil’s husband was diagnosed with colon cancer, after which she said she became his caregiver.
It was 2017 when Jamil was diagnosed with cancer. She said she and her family had colds that winter and were coughing quite a bit – but her cold never went away.
She said: ‘I also had this pain and this pinch, like I had pulled a muscle on my right side. When I went to the doctor about my cold and cough, they had prescribed me antibiotics.’
She asked for an ultrasound because appendicitis runs in her family, but the results showed lesions on her liver.
‘I had no other symptoms and no other pain, but further testing showed I had stage-four “de novo” metastatic breast cancer. It was the most shocking news ever,’ she said.
Jamil added that the cancer had already spread to her liver, spleen, lymph nodes, lungs, bones, abdomen and her chest.
Jamil, whose children were five, six and 16 years old at the time, was ‘devastated’ to hear the shocking news.
‘I couldn’t wrap my brain around the fact that my husband and I could both have a serious health issue. It just wasn’t a possibility,’ she said.
One of the first things Jamil thought about when she learned of her diagnosis was who would mind her children now that she and her husband were sick.
She explained: ‘But after that, I realized I had to survive for them; I have to be here for them. I wanted my kids to know that I did everything I could possibly do in my power in order to be here for them.’
According to the American Cancer Society, stage-four breast cancer has a five-year survival rate of just 22 per cent.
‘I had to process my diagnosis so I could focus on my health. You never think this could happen to you but it did. It happened to me,’ she said.
Jamil educated herself about the disease as best she could in order for her to understand what she could do to help herself, as she said her mission was ‘survival’.
Unfortunately, she had to continue to work full time despite her potentially deadly disease — because her family relies on her income and the health insurance she gets from her job.
‘I’m my kids’ mom and no one else can be. I’m the breadwinner in my family and everyone is also on my benefits. It was imperative that I keep my job and do well at my job so I could continue to take care of them,’ she said.
Jamil began chemotherapy soon after being diagnosed, as she said ‘on paper [she] was literally dying’. She said she lost all of her hair, and began feeling tired.
‘That’s when I started researching what else I could do in terms of integrative therapy to help me manage the side effects of the chemo in order to still work, be active and take care of my kids the same way I always had,’ Jamil said.
Ten months after beginning treatment, Jamil’s tumors have shrunk small enough that they are not detectable with a scan. Jamil’s husband is now in recovery.
Despite going through such a turbulent time, Jamil, whose Facebook profile says that she works as a CFO, entrepreneur, model and consultant, continues to work every day in order to support her family.
Similarly, she takes care of her children and remains involved in their school activities.
‘I want to soak in every waking second with my family,’ she said. ‘I’m not giving up anytime soon.’
SOURCE: Daily Mail, by Shirley Donlon