Posted: Jul 26, 2013 2:14 PM by Victoria Fregoso - MTN News
BILLINGS - A Billings woman who lost her husband to cancer is helping bring a one-day boot camp to Montana to provide support to other young people dealing with the disease.
"My husband Kurt and I were high school sweethearts. I grew up here in Billings. He grew up in a farm town outside of Great Falls, Montana," Jennifer Owen said.
Those high school sweethearts would go on to college then to Washington D.C. In 2008, Jennifer completed law school.
To them, it felt like their lives were just getting started.
"We were really feeling like we were sort of at the peak of our young adult lives. And he was diagnosed with cancer," Jennifer recalls.
Kurt had four terminal esophageal cancer.
"It was something we were absolutely unprepared for," Jennifer said.
With no warning signs or family history of the disease, at the age of 31, Kurt passed away. But there was another issue these young adults were up against during those 15 months spent fighting the cancer.
"Everywhere we went, we felt like the only ones in our situation. Most people diagnosed with cancer are 50, 60, 70s and here we were, 30, sitting in this waiting room where nobody looked like us. So the sense of social isolation was huge for us. It was very lonely," she recalls.
Once Kurt was gone, Jennifer fought another battle of her own.
"I felt like I had been left here on this earth without my partner and there was no longer purpose in my life," she said.
Jennifer found closure when a friend said she should go somewhere her help could make a difference. That took her to Nicaragua where she volunteered for a year.
Soon, she was approached by the non-profit Stupid Cancer. She was asked to share her story.
"For me, it was an incredibly validating opportunity. To be able to talk about what I had seen, what I had been through and to reach out to other caregivers and other people battling cancer and say you're not in this alone. There in in fact, a whole national network of people who get it and who want to fight this fight with you," she said.
People ages 18 to 40 will have the opportunity to take a part in a one-day Stupid Cancer Boot Camp this Saturday, July 27.
"And they really have a different set of issues than some of our other patients. We're hoping that by brining Stupid Cancer to Billings, that more of our young adults will come and want to get together and talk about the issues that they're facing," she said.
Now, Jennifer is happily remarried with their first child on the way.
"There is hope. There is opportunity to continue living post cancer," she said.
If you are under the age of 40 and would like to attend the Stupid Cancer Boot Camp, it takes place this Saturday, July 27. The free workshop is free and you can register by calling 406-255-8440.
The camp goes from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Prescott Hall at Rocky Mountain College.