When New Jersey resident Jennifer Waller, 32, began experiencing exhaustion, and vague abdominal symptoms and weight loss, she chalked it up to her hectic schedule. After all, she's a nurse working two jobs, and a mom of two. So when she got a colonoscopy last month, she didn't expect to be diagnosed with anything serious, and figured she had ulcerative colitis, a common inflammatory bowel disease that's manageable with meds. Instead, she learned that what she had was much worse: colon cancer.
Now the working mom is sharing her story to spread awareness about the disease, in hopes that it might be able to save others' lives, Scary Mommy reports.
"When I woke up and [the doctor] told me I had a large tumor, it was a complete shock, because I can't have cancer, I'm a nurse. I take care of people; I tell you [that] you have cancer. I treat you, but I can’t have cancer. But here I am saying the words that make me so nauseous, and just to even say I have cancer is just so bizarre. But it is what it is," Jennifer said in a now-viral Facebook video with over 34,000 views.
Jennifer admits that she knew something was off in her body, and had several tests done, including getting her breasts checked. If it wasn't for that, and she had followed U.S. guidelines on colon cancer screenings—which recommends waiting until you're 50-years-old to get checked—she would've been dead. As NJ.com reports, the American Cancer Society only recently lowered the recommended age for colorectal cancer screening to 45, for people at average risk, in May.
Since getting her diagnosis, Jennifer has experienced an array of emotions, including guilt. "You think of things you never want to think about. Who will take care of my children? What will I do? Can I afford a treatment? Can I afford being off from work? ... I've been angry, I've been sad, I have cried my eyes out for days, I've felt guilty, like this weird guilt because I'm a nurse, and maybe I should've known better, and maybe I should've gone sooner," she said.
Nevertheless, she wants people to know that she has chosen to be positive about her situation, and that she plans to fight the disease, since she wants to live to watch her two children grow up. "I'm not ready to die ... And all I know is that I want to live to raise them and to see them go to college, and watch them get married, and watch them have babies. And I can't wait for that," she said. "And in regards to this whole cancer thing, all I can say is, bring it. You have no idea how strong of a woman you are messing with. And I am going to fight for everything I deserve, and I have, and I want, because what's my other option? To roll over and give up? I came from far too little to do that."
Before ending her video, she urged viewers to get screened too. "You never know, your entire world can change in a moment, and it makes you remember what's important. And this isn't necessary. You don't have to do it. You can catch it early. You can get a treatment plan in place, and you can change it."
Although Jennifer's message is important for everyone to hear, her story is particularly relevant to working moms, who often prioritize their kids and career before their own health. It's a powerful reminder that working moms shouldn't dismiss their exhaustion, and that they should pay attention to their bodies, including any strange symptoms or changes, because it might just save their lives.
This article originally appeared on Working Mother.
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