Adjusting to two new identities: mother and cancer survivor

 Jenny Leyh. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Jenny Leyh. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Jenny Leyh was 28 weeks pregnant when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

She used to dread walking into the waiting room for each doctor’s appointment. At 34, she was also usually much younger than the other patients.

“So, you get a lot of very sad looks, and I hated that. It was hard enough to go through, but to like feel people looking at me and feeling pity for me was just upsetting.”

Still, Leyh found comfort in the fact that her doctors had a plan to tackle her cancer. She had a timeline and a schedule full of appointments. They were taking steps to handle the situation.

“Over the course of six months I went through 16 rounds of chemo and then I had a bilateral mastectomy in early January. And then I did radiation daily for five weeks,” she remembers.

The entire process lasted 11 months in total, and Leyh says it was “a blur.” But she beat cancer, and she gave birth to her daughter, Chloë.

“So now I’m trying to adjust to life after cancer, which sounds kind of weird. But it’s exciting!” she says.

But Leyh is still dealing with some anxieties. The type of cancer she had, triple-negative breast cancer, has a very high rate of recurrence. That’s something she managed to not think about while she was going through treatment.

“You know, the whole time it’s like, I’m just going to get through this, I’m going to check off the boxes. And you’re so focused on that.” Now that it’s over, and Leyh doesn’t have a regimented plan to stick to, she wonders, “What do I do?” 

Leyh is settling into two new roles: cancer survivor and mom. She thinks that, in some ways, she’s a better mother because of her cancer — the experience allowed her to slow down a little. 

“It’s made me more patient. It’s given me the opportunity to […] be a little bit more present in my life. Now I find myself a little bit more able to to stop and say, ‘Does this thing matter?’ or ‘Is this really worth stressing out over?'”

Leyh’s daughter Chloë is almost a year old. She and her husband just watched her take her first steps.

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