Never give up

REED CITY — Although she never thought of herself as a strong woman, 36-year-old Jennifer Zeitz, of Cadillac, is learning just how powerful she is while fighting metastatic breast cancer.

Zeitz was diagnosed in September of 2010, after she noticed a lump in her breast that her then 1-year-old daughter kept bumping when being carried. At first, her doctor believed the lump to be a cyst, but a biopsy revealed stage three cancer. She also had lumps on her other breast.

“I felt scared,” Zeitz said about hearing the diagnosis for the first time. “You hear the word ‘cancer’ and you think, ‘this is it, I’m going to die.’”

However, thanks to her faith in God and her family, she found the strength she needed to pick herself up. She underwent a double mastectomy, reconstructive surgery, chemotherapy for six months and radiation therapy for three weeks before remission.

She returned to work, but after about a year Zeitz began to have pain in her hips and back. The pain was attributed to metastatic breast cancer, which is when cancer spreads to other parts of the body, or in her case at that moment, to her bones.

After another round of chemotherapy and radiation, doctors discovered cancerous areas on her liver, lungs and brain. Thankfully, the areas on her brain have disappeared following a third radiation treatment, but each time she receives a new diagnosis, the feelings of panic return until she can let the news sink in.

“It lasts for a few days, but then I say, ‘OK, I’m going to beat this,’” Zeitz added. “Cancer changes your whole view on life.”

Now, Zeitz is off chemotherapy, but is placed on hormone therapy, which is making her feel well. She is also undergoing physical therapy on her arm to combat lymphedema.

Apart from fighting against cancer, Zeitz surrounds herself with her family — her husband, Sean, and now 4-year-old daughter, Kyra — during what she calls “bonus life.”

“I think I would have given up a long time ago if it weren’t for my husband and daughter. Sean is my rock. He’s always right there,” she said. “With my daughter, she knows the word, but doesn’t know what it means.”

Zeitz said she hopes to be an inspiration to Kyra, to teach her to have a courageous spirit and keeping going no matter the battle.

“Going through this has made me feel stronger than I ever imagined,” Zeitz said. “I have a lot to live for, so I’ll keep fighting.”