Jasmine Pettross has lived in the Maryland area for most of her life. She attended both Wilberforce University (freshman year) and Stevenson University, where she received her Bachelor’s degree. But, just as it seemed like her life was falling into place, her world was flipped upside-down and transformed in March. On March 4, 2016, Pettross was diagnosed with Stage 3 Colorectal cancer at the age of 23. Now at the age of 24, she’s learned to let go and let God.
Though she had been experiencing the symptoms of bloody stool, fatigue, and abdominal pains since June 2015, Pettross blew them off and assumed it was just stress from sometimes working 16-hour shifts at Sheppard Pratt. Eventually, the symptoms became far more than she could bear… like blood gushing out every time she used the bathroom, so she decided to go see a doctor and then was sent to a Gastro specialist.
“I didn’t even think it had anything to do with cancer. I just thought I would go in there and they would give me some kind of pill and things would be over. I was wrong. She wanted to do a colonoscopy to see what was going on in my rectum. I told her I would get the procedure done after I came back from a trip I planned and she said ok. My mom told me I shouldn’t wait and that I should get it done right away. I had to drink a terrible drink that I started the late afternoon and didn’t get done with it until 5 am the next morning. I was crying so hard, saying I couldn’t get it back and saying I’ll just do it another time. My mom literally yelled at me and pressured me to drink it, telling me that I need to find out what’s wrong with me. I took her advice and of course she was right, and I said a prayer asking God to give me the strength to get this drink back. God answered my prayers, what an amazing God we serve,” said Pettross.
The next morning she had the procedure done, and to her surprise, the doctor came into the room and said “Does colon cancer run in your family?”A mass the size of a peach was found and a biopsy was needed immediately because there was a 50 percent chance she had cancer. Pettross and her mother were shocked because colon cancer usually is detected in older people.
“In my head I still knew I didn’t have cancer. My mom was worried and you could see it on her face. I wasn’t nervous or anything because I knew I didn’t have it! I was too busy getting ready for my trip to the Bahamas with one of my good friends. I still remember dancing in my room , packing , and just thinking about how I was going to sit out in the sun (mind you I planned for this trip for a while). Finally, I was at work and got a call from the doctors office and stepped out to call them back, but instead I had a message on my answering machine . ‘Hello Ms. Pettross , the results came back cancerous and so we are going to set you up with a cancer doctor at Johns Hopkins.’ I came back into work and busted out in tears and just cried to my Director! My life changed that day,” said Pettross.
After her diagnosis, she prayed, and prayed, and prayed some more. Her dad drove up from Florida to support her at all of her appointments. Her mother and brother supported as well. Pettross thought life was over, and all she wanted to do was sleep and cry. Thank God her new job with the Federal government was understanding of her health, so missing days wasn’t a big deal.
“Life was then miserable. I literally had to get a needle everyday (which I have been scared of needles all my life). I went through so much during these three months so far. They told me if I didn’t get my eggs frozen, I wouldn’t be able to have kids due to where they were going to treat me for radiation. I cried and I screamed at my house. I was just over everything. ‘Like what did I do to really deserve this?’ I said to myself. I went down the right path, I never got into any trouble , I’m always nice to people /helping people , I just don’t understand, but God knows why. I had a long talk with God that night, we got real close. I instantly put everything in his hands and left my worries to him and ever since then I have been stress free and still enjoying my life the best I can. I got my procedure to get my eggs frozen and had to get shots in my stomach everyday for two weeks. I also had to get my ovaries moved up so I wouldn’t go into menopause in my late 20s. They completely took one of my ovaries out. I had to do two more minor surgeries for the doctor to actual look at the tumor again. I stopped working and will return after I heal from surgery,” said Pettross.
Chemo and radiation began on April 14 for six weeks. Pettross fell ill at the beginning, but like a real trooper, pushed through the pain and frustration, with the help of her family and friends. Her grandparents on her dad’s side and her grandmother on her mom’s side (who is also ill) played a pivotal role during those six weeks. Her grandparents took her to her treatment everyday, and her grandmother was a guiding force who told her to call on God for strength when she feels weak and hurt.
Now, Pettross is done with chemo and radiation, but awaits surgery on August 3 to remove the tumor. She also recently had the opportunity to be in a cancer fashion show at Johns Hopkins, and will be attending another one next week.
Pettross said that her faith in God keeps her going and that something she wrote gets her through the bad days.” My heart needs some attention right now. This pain seems to take over me but I won’t let it. Things been tough, feel down ,sick, hopeless. Promise I’ll be alright God. I know you are making me and molding me to become as strong as you.I’m not going no where; I’m not giving up on you. I see my future but maybe you have something totally different.Mind over matter, I fight through this. I’m stronger; there’s nothing I can’t handle. I leap, I fall, I get back up.”
As women we are very strong and independent. We go through things you can’t even imagine! We don’t have control over our life, but we have control over how we respond to it. We can learn from each other and better each other to become very strong! We can inspire each other. I always see strong women and say if they can go through, I can too! We build off each other and empower one another.