After giving birth, mom learns she has terminal cancer

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AMMON, Idaho — Life as Jenny and John Bess knew it drastically changed on a cool autumn day last September.

Jenny, who had delivered their fifth child in June, was experiencing some unusual postpartum bleeding so her doctor suggested she undergo a colonoscopy.

“As I was coming out of anesthesia, he told me there was 90 percent chance that I had cancer,” Jenny said. “It was shocking.”

Further tests showed cancer was everywhere in Jenny’s colon and had spread to her lungs and liver. Doctors said it was stage four – the most extreme stage before death.

“It was such fast growing. They don’t know when it started, but I had no idea and no symptoms,” Jenny told “I still, to this day, don’t feel sick other than the chemotherapy that makes me feel sick.”

Jenny, who just turned 36, has chemotherapy every other week at the Teton Cancer Institute.

Her parents make a 5-hour drive hour from Utah to care for the kids and it takes days for Jenny to start to feel somewhat normal after her treatments.

“I’ve asked my oncologist multiple times how long he thinks I have to live,” Jenny said. “He told me I would have chemotherapy every other week for the rest of my life.”

Colon cancer in someone so young is rare, according to Dr. Brad Adams, Jenny’s oncologist.

“Usually the person who has colon cancer is over 50,” Adams said. “We do see younger people with colon cancer, but they have family histories and perhaps inherited a gene that predisposes them for cancer.”

For Jenny, that’s not the case. She has no family history of cancer and has been healthy her entire life.

That’s one reason it’s been so hard to deal with this life-changing diagnosis and still be a strong wife and mother.

“It breaks my heart because we have five young children and I don’t want to leave them,” Jenny said, fighting back tears. “My five-year-old prays every day that it will go away. I told my oldest daughter that maybe she’d get a new mom someday and she didn’t like hearing that.”

Jenny and John are learning to live one minute, one day, one week at a time – and they’re realizing that they’re not in charge.

“You’ve got to take things in the moment you’re in,” John Bess said. “We can’t always plan what we’re going to do in a year or a month or we’ll put something off. You just don’t know.”

The Bess’s do know a colonoscopy saved Jenny’s life and she hopes others who have delayed getting the procedure will see her story and realize how vital colonoscopies are.

“When colon cancer is found early, it’s very curable,” Adams said. “If we find colon cancer, we can remove it early. It’s worth the time to get the colonoscopy.”

Jenny and her family pray every day for a miracle cure, but she says she has faith in a greater plan and wants others who are suffering to know they’re not alone.

“Don’t give up hope,” Jenny said. “Believe there is a God and a purpose and that we have a Savior who suffered so we wouldn’t have to alone.”

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