Stories of Hope
Finding Determination Along a Rocky Path
Article date: January 9, 2002
In the experience, I found myself.
Cancer Teaches Survivor What She's Made Of
"People say that the true character of a human being is revealed during times of crisis," said Jeanne Longpré, who survived inflammatory breast cancer 19 years ago. "It's interesting to look back over the last couple of decades and realize how true it was then, and even more so now."
"Growing up, my one desire was be secure, to be loved, to feel safe. I married young and elected to stay home with my children," she said.
Longpré's husband was a sales executive. In the mid-1980s, he was promoted to management and the family moved to a community of 3,000 people in the northwestern US. This would put him close to his office in a nearby city and let them raise their children in a small-town atmosphere.
One day she learned that her home and her life were not as secure as she thought - her marriage was in crisis. "It took several days for the news to sink in," she said. "When it did, I was filled with a slow, burning rage."
"I didn't know at the time what to do," said Longpré, whose children were 16, 14, and 10 years old at the time. "I didn't think I had employable enough skills to support us."
Facing One Fear After Another
During this time, she became aware of pain in her arm, like a bruise from her elbow to her armpit. She said she’d been feeling it for a while but ignored it. One night, she walked into the bathroom to check it out. Under her arm she found a lump about the size of a walnut.
Longpré knew something was wrong. "The fear set in again," she said. She made an appointment with her doctor. He referred her to the hospital for tests.
She recalled sitting in the office of the oncologist who treated her. He told her she had inflammatory breast cancer and that it had spread to her lymph nodes. Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare and aggressive (rapidly spreading) breast cancer that involves the skin of the breast and the lymph nodes.
"So now what?" she asked. "What are my chances of being cured?"
He said he would try to treat her, but suggested she enjoy her time with her family. He told her she might live for six months.
Trusting Faith and Medicine
Longpré asked for God's help in healing. Through her grueling chemotherapy treatments, she never lost her faith. "I believe in divine healing and medical healing," she said.
“My treatment started the day before my thirty-eighth birthday,” she said. “I spent my birthday in the hospital because I was so dehydrated. I threw up and threw up. I didn’t have a clue what I was in for.”
Longpré's daughter, Anne, kept the household running. She did the cooking, washing, and checked her brothers' homework. And during this time, her parents' marriage stabilized.
What kept Longpré running was a photograph of her three children. She could see it from her bed. She wanted to raise her own children.
"Roughly 16 months after my treatments started, they announced I was in remission," said Longpré.
Making a Slow and Steady Comeback
"My hair grew back and I gained confidence in myself, getting a job and eventually owning my own business," she said. Longpré spent a decade building her skills and her self-esteem.
"In the experience, I found myself," she said.
Her daughter said her mother saw cancer as a turning point and a learning tool. Though her marriage eventually ended, Longpré sees the whole experience as a good thing. “It’s made me a better person.”
"My children have all grown into strong people, all with loving families and good relationships," she said. "It's weird to admit this, but my illness actually had positive impacts on my two younger children. It reminds me that God never gives us more than we can handle."
Her struggles aren't over. She has severe swelling of her arm and fears she may lose it one day. "But considering the alternative," she said, "that's great! I have another chance to live."
"To everyone who feels their lives are over or are too much to handle, keep fighting," she said. "I absolutely promise you it's worth every single day. I'm grateful for every experience, both good and bad. It just shows that I'm truly alive…perhaps for the first time."