Honor Your Loved Ones

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Jen Puglise

I am a happy and proud wife to an amazing, supportive man. I have the most delightful 4 year old son, who sustains me and gives me a reason to fight harder. I am the dog mother of an adorable mini Yorkie named Katie Connie Dandi and sweet shi szu, Lily. I am a certified pilates/fitness instructor. Being healthy and fit really helped me in my journey. I graduated with a degree in American Studies/Civil Rights. I worked in the field for 2 years and then took a sabbatical. For what I did not know at the time, but my intuition told me to get fit and rest, a storm was coming...

I am here as a cancer warrior. I am a colorectal survivor. I was diagnosed June 10, 2007 with stage 4 colon cancer at the age of 30. I knew something was wrong with me when after my son's birth I was constipated to the point of vomiting everyday. I went to my GP who said I was too young for colon cancer (I was 29) and sent me home with Metimucil and suppositories. Needless to say they only made my problem worse. I revisited the GP a month later and he was angry that I wanted a colonoscopy. So he did a rectal exam, called my 'tumor' hemmoroids and let me go. Oh yeah, when I asked for a colonoscopy, he told me of the evils i.e. colostomy bag if the wand injured my colon. That was September 2006. Fast forward to June 2007. I'm still having the same problems, lost some weight and have pain in my right side. Go to the E.R. where they discover masses on my liver and pancreas. Fortunately there wasn't a mass on my pancreas. PET/CT scan show huge liver mass and a thickening in my colon. I go for a colonoscopy and my tumor was so large that a pediatric scope couldn't pass it. I woke up to a room of teary eyed nurses, techs and doctor who told me that it was stage 4 with liver mets. I was on the fast track to Georgetown's Lombardi Center where I was evaluated by the 3 most wonderful doctors. Within 3 weeks I was diagnosed and had my first surgery, my colon tumor removed and a colostomy placement. Three weeks after that I had 85% of my liver removed, gallbladder removed and my portal vein and bile duct rerouted because cancer had grown around them. The next day I had a clot and was back in the O.R. I don't remember 4 days of my life. That was the start of my true awakening. I recovered in 6 weeks and went for my PET/CT staging scans to start chemo. They found a huge, jelly mass in my pelvis. I went through 3 months of chemo and no shrinkage. Radiation wasn't an option so it was back to surgery. My colon surgeon was told by the tumor board to send me home and give me ice cream and morphine and let me die. He fought for me and did the surgery anyway. His reputation and my life were on the line. We were successful! I had a complete hysterectomy as the tumors had grown around my ovaries. The resident doc's said that when they cut me open one of the tumors was spouting out since there was so much pressure in my abdomen. Again I recovered fairly quickly and went back on chemo/Avastin. That was December 2007 and since that time I've had 3 clean scans, a clean colonoscopy and low bloodmarkers. Miracle-YES! My doctors cry when they see me. Without them and their belief in my right to live I wouldn't be here. I owe my life to God and the hand's and hearts of my team. I am truly grateful for the aggressive nature in which I was dealt. They saw past my bad luck and decided that they'd do anything to keep me alive. I had my colostomy reversed in August 2008 and another year of chemo. I had my reversal and recovered slowly, as it is a painful surgery. I am about to start another year of aggressive chemo as I have spots on my lungs. I was 'cancer free' for five months in 2009.

 

I am truly blessed with my life. Paolo Coehlo said, "A blessing rejected becomes a curse" and that is how I thrive in this life. Cancer has become a painful, but necessary road to becoming more whole and fulfilling my life's purpose. I was awakened to LIFE- being present, loving the moment, living without the confines of a social mask. I live with my heart and have gained the most incredible moments because of my openness to the lives around me. Am I lucky? Yes! The prayers and positive energy that have been offered in my name heal me and protect my wellness. I have accepted that I might not have the years I thought I did before cancer, but the years and days and hours I have on this Earth will be fuller than if I never suffered. I now know what I am here for. I hope that someday that I can bring my sense of hope to the larger community. I want to sit and hear the stories of my fellow patients, hold their hands, cry with them and bring a smile to their faces, knowing exactly what they are going through. I live through compassion and empathy now.

My dream is to live to 92 years old and see my son become a man, a husband, a father. To grow old with my dear husband and true companion. I want to see how awesome my brother and sisters do in life. I want to see my nieces and nephews get married and cuddle their children. I want to visit with my favorite doctor as a friend, not a patient. And spend hours in my old age rocking on a porch with my BF regaling the days of old. I pray everyday for the peace that comes along with wellness. I pray that I will see, feel, hear all these hopes from the Earth. Although looking down from heaven would be okay too. My wants are great and my resolve greater. But God has a plan for all of us and I pray that my days are truer than before.

Are you at Risk For Colorectal Cancer?

  • 2nd leading cause of cancer deaths for men and women combined
  • Colonoscopies not only discover cancer, but can also stop cancer
  • 50% of Americans still do not get colonoscopy reimbursement
  • Colon cancer research is still vastly under-funded

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