A 33-year-old mom of two is being hailed as an inspiration after opting to have her right foot amputated last month to prevent the spread of a cancerous tumour.
“I did this because I love life,” Jenn Andrews told People. “I’m not one to miss out on life. I have a 3-year-old and a 4-year-old who I love more than you can love someone else and the idea of them growing up without me just broke my heart. Anything I could do to be there for them, I was willing to do – and that’s what I did.”
In 2013, Andrews was pregnant with her daughter Hannah, now four, when her pedicurist alerted her to a pea-sized bump on her foot while giving her a foot massage. The North Carolina mom didn’t think it was a huge deal. A physician in the family even took a quick look at the bump and thought it might be a benign ganglion cyst.
“I had never noticed it before and didn’t think much of it. Because I was pregnant, I didn’t really do much about it,” she said.
So Andrews put it at the back of her mind. She gave birth to her daughter through C-section and focused on recovery. By the time she was pregnant with her second child Ari, now three, the pea-sized bump had grown to the size of a golf ball — she finally had it removed.
It wasn’t until a routine follow-up appointment 10 days after the removal that she found out the bump was actually a cancerous mass known as low-grade myxoid sarcoma. It’s a slow-growing tumour that, if spread, can result in death.
“I was shocked and kind of numb,” Andrews admitted. She was a busy mother with two children and a cancerous tumour was the last thing she — or most for the matter — would expect. “And I heard maybe a third of what (the doctor) said after that.”
For two years afterward, Andrews went in for regular checkups and doctors religiously scanned her foot and lungs (areas where sarcoma can spread). On Jan. 2 of this year, Dr. Joshua Patt, her orthopedic oncologist at Levine Cancer Center in Charlotte, discovered the tumor had returned. It was located on her foot, giving no room for doctors to remove it without having to cut tendons and ligaments.
So Andrews had the choice to have surgery that would severely reduce the functionality of her foot (and the cancer could still return) or she could have part of her leg amputated.
Patt told Andrews: “You should think about your children and watching your kids walk down the aisle and if that’s the most important thing in your life, then you should have an amputation.”
She chose March 12 for her surgery date and recorded an emotional Facebook video, which now has more than 83, 000 views, asking people to get out and move on the day of surgery because they still could.
The hashtag #MoveforJenn was spread worldwide as strangers across the globe responded with pictures of them exercising.
“When I woke up from surgery my Facebook and Instagram was flooded with #MoveforJenn posts and I can’t put into words what it meant to me to see that so many people got moving,” she said.
After surgery, Andrews was fitted with a temporary leg (she’s awaiting her customized prosthetic leg) and she has plans to run a 5-kilometre race by end of year.
A GoFundMe account has been set up for Andrews and she continues to share her progress through regular social media updates.
Andrews is hopeful that her story will help others see their doctors immediately if they see or feel something different in their bodies, or simply feel off.
“If you find something, don’t wait on it,” Andrews told TODAY. “If it’s continuous, you need to go to the doctor. It’s scary and you might be told something you don’t want to be told, but the more proactive you are and the quicker you go, the better chance you have at it not being this large issue.”