We are so grateful to our amazing supporter Jen Bremner and her fantastic family and friends who have shown huge support for Beatson Cancer Charity raising over £7000 from our event, Off the Beatson Track, which she took part in with a group of 120 members called Team HOPE.
Jen recently did a news article for the Daily Record about her cancer battle and we'd like to share her unique story and say a huge thanks to her for everything she has done for us.
Jen spent four hours with husband Brem planning what they were going to say if their two young children asked if she was going to die. The couple had worked out how to explain to children Kyle, 10, and Evie, seven, that Jen had cancer but they knew the youngsters were bound to ask them the most difficult question of all – if that meant she was going to die.
Former account manager and childminder Jen, 45, from Glasgow, has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called leiomyosarcoma. Doctors removed a cancerous fibroid the size of a football from her womb but sadly can’t cure her of the disease.
Jen’s hope is that her cancer can be treated so that she can have as much time as possible with her family.
“We told the kids quite early on,” she explained. “I just approached it like a work project."
With husband Brem, 50, a graphic designer, the couple watched videos to research what to say and got help from a psychologist from the Maggie’s Centre in Glasgow.
“I wrote a script because we wanted to tell them both together and we took them through everything we’d found out,” she said. “I knew Kyle would ask and Evie asked as well, ‘Are you going to die?’ I’d already spent four hours crafting my response. They have not been told a timeline. All we’ve told them is that we can’t make it go away.“
I’ll die sooner than I want but we’re working hard with the doctors to make that not happen for as long as we can.
“It took at least four hours crafting a three-line response to that question.
“We were trying not to frighten them too much and make sure they understood. There were lots of tears but they’ve taken it on board. And now we can talk about it openly as a family.”
For years, Jen had suffered from fibroids – benign tumours in or around the womb – which led to very heavy periods. But she never thought her condition could end up being serious.
Then when her stomach swelled, she was told it was because of a fibroid.
“If I hadn’t known better, I would have felt there was a baby growing as I could feel a hard mass in my stomach because of a fibroid,” she explained.
By December 2013, she began suffering a number of haemorrhages – extremely heavy periods – where she lost lots of blood. Tests over a couple of months revealed she had a fibroid the size of a 22-week baby in her womb. Doctors gave her a series of injections to try to shrink the fibroid before it could be taken out during a planned hysterectomy.
But before her operation, she suffered an extreme haemorrhage and needed six blood transfusions. She underwent a hysterectomy in May and doctors discovered the fibroid had grown to the size of a football – but managed to remove it. Jen felt her health problems were finally over. But a week later she was given bombshell news that tests on the fibroid revealed it contained a rare form of cancer called leiomyosarcoma. This currently affects less than 300 women in the UK.
“Everything I’d read about fibroids said they were 99.9 per cent benign,” she explained. “The word cancer never entered my mind. I was in total shock.
“I was very upset but I still had some hope. Doctors thought the cancer had been contained within the fibroid and wouldn’t have spread. Then later that was shattered when scans revealed I’d got secondary cancer."
She was told the cancer had spread and she had two tumours in each lung and a possible tumour in her pelvis.
“I’d had the op in May and in June I found out I had a life-limiting cancer and I had secondaries. It was utterly devastating. I went through a myriad of emotions and disbelief.
“I thought, ‘Why me?’ My children need me. I want to be around to see them grow up – I don’t want to miss all their milestones and their lives.
“Then I thought, ‘I am not going to lie down and think that’s it, take me’. I decided I was going to fight it."
Doctors warned she may only have a year – but she refuses to give up hope.
“I was told I’m still young and it depends on how I respond to treatment – not everyone is the same.”
Jen set up a group on Facebook to keep her friends up to date with her progress so she didn’t have to keep retelling her news. She then decided to launch Team HOPE – Have Only Positive Expectations.
She found the image and mantra of HOPE online and really liked the sentiment, so created a group for her family, friends and colleagues.
Impressed with the help and support at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre, Jen decided to raise money for charity.
Around 120 members of Jen’s Team HOPE took part in the recent Off the Beatson Track fundraising event for the Beatson Cancer Charity and raised more than £7000.“It was an amazing day to feel that love and support,” she said. “We’re so grateful to Sarah McAleer and her company Gartshore who offered to print our T-shirts for free.
“Beatson Cancer Charity are close to her heart as her husband had been treated at the centre.”
Jen also raised more than £3000 for Sarcoma UK through an auction and film event at the Blythswood Hotel in Glasgow with friends.
She said: “I’m delighted we’ve raised £10,000 to help other people.”
Jen began chemo at the Beatson in July – but has learned two sessions haven’t worked and the tumours have grown. She’s now due to try new treatment.
“I just have to hope that this regime will have some positive impact.
“The doctors’ phrase is that it’s ‘not curable but treatable’. Although it has not been treated yet. I guess what we’re all aiming for is to find the drug that works for my tumours so we can either maintain them at the size they are or shrink them and stop new ones.”
The family are planning on creating happy memories with their time together and Jen remains positive. She said: “I’m trying to live a day at a time and create happy memories together.”