Penta senior fights leukemiaWritten by Allison Wingate | | email@example.com
Jenna Apthorpe was looking forward to summer vacation, a little freedom before her senior year of training at Penta Career Center to become a dental hygienist.
But it was a diagnosis of leukemia on June 10 that put all of her plans on hold and her future in question.
“I really didn’t understand what leukemia was,” Jenna said. “When I was told that I had it, the first word I thought of was ‘cancer’ and I automatically thought I was going to die.”
Jenna said that, when the doctor explained the illness to her, she began to think of it more as a cold and hoped her younger siblings would understand and not be as upset as she was after the diagnosis.
“They took them into a room to watch a video about leukemia before they came to see me because they wanted them to understand that I would be OK,” she said.
“When they came in, we all just cried together.”
Jenna has since started chemotherapy treatments to combat the leukemia, an emotional process that led to losing her hair and many other unwanted side effects, such as nausea, tiredness and fevers.
“I was freaking out about what people would think or how kids at school would react,” she said.
Support from her friends and family has been comforting.
“The hardest part was losing my hair, but everyone has been telling me how beautiful I am, and that helps,” she said. “It got easier when I just accepted it and stopped trying to cover it up.”
Jenna will be returning to school in the fall but will have to make some changes to her lifestyle.
“I can’t eat in the cafeteria with all of the other kids because I’m more likely to get sick or infections because of the leukemia.”
The medical bills are growing for the Apthorpe family, which prompted Jenna’s father Mike to reach out to the community for help. He, along with other family members and friends, created “Jenna’s Hope,” a series of benefits and donation opportunities.
“It stresses my mom and dad because they really have to watch how they spend money now,” Jenna said. “Our family and friends have set so many things up to help us money-wise.”
A golf outing on July 19 was arranged in her honor and yielded large donations from individuals and local businesses.
“We really appreciate all of the help we’ve gotten so far,” Jenna said. “It made me feel very happy; everyone cried.”
Jenna is optimistic about her treatment and recovery.
“I have ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia), and if you have to have leukemia, this is the kind you want,” she said. “It is curable, and I’m still learning more about it.”
Jenna’s advice to others is to always have hope.
“Be strong and remember that prayers do work,” she said. “That’s all I did was pray and so did my whole family. I just had faith, and that’s what you have to do.”
The next fundraiser for Jenna’s Hope is a spaghetti dinner that will take place 5 to 11 p.m. on Aug.15 at the Millbury Fire and Recreation Hall. The dinner will include silent auctions, a 50-50 raffle, a bake sale and T-shirts available for purchase. Tickets for the dinner are $10 for adults and $5 for children.
For more information, visit hope4jenna.com.