Survivor, Guide, Wife, Mother: Jennifer’s Story

At Firefly Sisterhood, we are incredibly grateful for the devotion, passion, and generosity of our Firefly Guides. They are the core of our program, ready at the drop of a hat (actually the ring or notification of their phone) to help a woman diagnosed with breast cancer. Whether she is in need of support, has questions, is alone during pandemic-induced isolation policies for treatments and hospitalizations, or is trying to decide on reconstruction options, these women are matched with a volunteer Firefly Guide to find hope, comfort, and the unexplainable camaraderie of shared experience with breast cancer.

That being said, we are proud to feature a blog post by Jennifer O’Quinn, a Firefly Guide, who shares her story and how it will help Firefly!

My breast cancer experience was long and lonely. I began having concerning symptoms in early 2012, and I saw numerous doctors and completed multiple tests to find out why.

No one seemed to validate my concerns. Frustrated, in pain, and having lost trust in the medical community, I traveled to the Mayo Clinic in April of 2013. It was here that I was ultimately diagnosed with breast cancer.

It was at this time that I shared my diagnosis with my three daughters, Aubrey (14), Brooke (13), and Claire (7). I discussed my treatment options and assured them that everything was going to be okay and that I would always be there for them, even though at the time I felt like I was experiencing things for the last time.

I was so scared, so frightened, and so alone. I wanted to be strong for my girls, I wanted to show them that all was well, all was normal.

They each dealt with it differently.  Aubrey seemed to want all the facts up front but didn’t want to discuss it again. Brooke was very interested in knowing everything and wanted to be close to me to help with things like taking care of my drains and bandages. I didn’t share a lot with Claire, as she so was so young.

During my treatment, I underwent 6 surgeries, which includes a surgical biopsy and single mastectomy. In all, I only spent a few nights away from my daughters, as most of the surgeries were outpatient. I made a promise to myself to at least get dressed and sit at the dinner table each night with my husband and my girls. I was able to keep this promise most nights.

Besides my immediate family, I felt completely alone. I didn’t have any support, other than that of my husband. At the time, I didn’t know how to take care of my daughters emotionally, let alone take care of myself. I felt like I was just struggling to stay alive for them.

Because of this loneliness, I am passionate about Firefly Sisterhood. The timing of my diagnosis (Firefly Sisterhood was established in 2014) didn’t allow me to have a Firefly Mentor, but I am proud to say I was a Guide for many years. Being able to connect with another woman for support and guidance to navigate through this experience would have been so comforting and helpful, especially when it came to my daughters. I know I made mistakes with them during this time, but they’ve seen my strength and they know that my love for them is fierce. This is all I can ask for.

We are on the other side: I am 7 years cancer free and my daughters and I are as close as ever. I am proud that my girls are great students, hard workers, and charitable young women, giving back to their community and volunteering at multiple agencies. Aubrey, now 21, and Brooke, 19, work at Kendra Scott at the Mall of America. Brooke was instrumental in scheduling a Give Back event for Firefly Sisterhood. Kendra Scott is a very charitable company and supporting those diagnosed with breast cancer is near to Kendra’s heart, as her dear friend, Holley Rothell Kitchen passed away from metastatic breast cancer in January, 2016. I’m excited that Kendra Scott will be hosting a Give Back event for Firefly Sisterhood and I am proud my girls are a part of it.

FIREFLY KENDRA SCOTT GIVE BACK EVENT: On Wednesday and Thursday, December 9 & 10 (2020), for every purchase you make at Kendra Scott, 20% of the proceeds will be donated to Firefly Sisterhood! Shop at the Mall of America Kendra Scott store from 11am – 7pm or shop online at Kendra Scott and use code “GIVEBACK-0EGU” at checkout.

Written by Jennifer O’Quinn, breast cancer survivor, Firefly Guide, and most importantly, wife and mother. Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your story and supporting Firefly Sisterhood!

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