MADISONVILLE, Ky. (7/10/13) – Jenny Morin has spent the last several years helping find foster homes for children with loving support. Through the years, many of those children and families have adopted her as their own. Now, they are joined by thousands around the world to support Jenny in her battle with pancreatic cancer.
Jenny, 43, has been with the Department for Community Based Services on Thornberry Drive in Madisonville for the past 13 years and with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services for 16 years. The self-confessed mother hen, says she loved her job, the children she helped and the foster families she's worked with.
But now she's on medical leave after suffering bizarre symptoms, then receiving the shocking diagnosis in May that she has stage four cancer of the pancreas. While her husband, Michael, has been with her through every medical test and the diagnosis, the couple chose to break the news to their 7-year-old daughter in a unique way, which brought the entire family together.
Michael and Jenny took their daughter, Elizabeth, to Tennessee to be with her biological father and step mother as they shared the news. They chose the format to help Elizabeth realize that although her mother has a serious illness, she is not going to be abandoned and has the love and support of everyone.
"Elizabeth has said that her friends don't seem to care that her mommy has cancer," said Jenny. "I tell her they just don't understand. She says, 'I don't want to be the kid that has to understand cancer.' It's heartbreaking, yes."
The couple also has daughters, Samantha, 21, and Katie, 17.
Jenny and some family members met at her late mother's house Tuesday, July 9, on Richmond Drive in Madisonville to clear out some belongings. They plan to sell the house to help with expenses after Jenny's medical leave is exhausted and they will have to find insurance.
Even with a heavy load on her mind, Jenny's warm brown eyes are full of faith and hope. She and her husband, Michael, believe that the new treatment option — Folfirinox — is their "rock," sent by the Lord to fight the disease.
"The doctors said if I were over 50, I wouldn't be a candidate for this treatment," said Jenny. "When David had to face down Goliah, he had a rock for a weapon. We feel like this Folfirinox is our rock."
As her cancer is considered inoperable, the treatment is considered a first-line defense reserved for younger people, who are in otherwise good health.
The family's faith is being bolstered by former co-workers and foster families as well as churches around the world, Jenny said.
"We're fighting discouragement with prayers warriors from around the world," she said. "Michael was previously in missionary work and we have a friend church in Russia that is praying for us."
Jenny first began having symptoms in early May. After going to a local clinic, it was believed she had diverticulitis and began a treatment regimen of sulfa drugs.
"My mother was very allergic to sulfa drugs," said Jenny. "Within nine days of treatment, I was covered in hives."
Jenny said after trip to the emergency room at Jennie Stuart in Hopkinsville and then another on Memorial Day weekend to Baptist Hospital in Nashville, the shocking diagnosis began to take shape.
"There has been no family history of cancer," she said. "It was rather a shock because my husband's family has had several cases. We always figured we'd have to watch his health more."
Jenny said the medical care at Nashville's Baptist Hospital let her know she had found the right place to begin her battle.
"Everywhere you look, there are people in scrubs praying for patients," she said. "I believe I met an angel there as I waited for exploratory surgery."
Jenny relates the experience of what she believes was an angel with a message for her.
"I was waiting and just watching people doing their jobs and coming and going, when a young man in scrubs stopped in the hall where I was lying," Jenny recalled. "I have been a church organist for years and as I often do, I was singing some hymns. He took my hand and asked, 'How are you today?' And when I told him, 'I am blessed,' he smiled and said, 'You are highly favored.' That really blew me away because I've only known of that said to Mary. I looked away and then looked back and he was gone. I believe he was an angel. But for sure, he was a Christian brother."
Last Saturday, Jenny faced another hurdle along the treatment path. She and her husband shaved her head.
"It was starting to get really thin," she said. "So we decided to take it off. I don't know why this has happened to me, but regardless how hard this gets, we will give (God) thanks and praise. I'm thankful for each moment of my life."
For more information, see Jenny and Michael Morins Facebook page.
Rita Dukes Smith
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